Grant to help increase biofuel yield while limiting fertilizer use

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Kellogg Biological Station (view larger image)

Michigan State University has earned a $5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy to better understand how biofuel crops acquire nitrogen, insights that could help maximize yields while minimizing fertilizer use.

Sarah Evans, an integrative biologist at MSU’s Kellogg Biological Station, and a team of MSU colleagues will study how plants interact with microbes living near their roots to obtain nutrients, especially biofuel crops growing in abandoned farmlands, or marginal lands.

Dumping nitrogen fertilizer on marginal lands doesn’t make financial sense and, environmentally speaking, can result in more nitrogen washing into waterways. Perennial bioenergy cropping systems such as switchgrass and miscanthus, however, have the potential to increase nitrogen retention in marginal lands while producing bioenergy that’s not in direct competition with food production, Evans said.

For the full story, visit MSU Today.

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