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Study assesses landscape effects on biomass crop yields

US: Understanding biomass productivity on specific landscape positions is essential to realising the highest financial returns on the integration of herbaceous and woody biomass crops at the field scale while providing a reliable and consistent feedstock source that meets quality specifications for the bio-energy market, according to a recent University of Minnesota study, The Effect of Landscape Position on Biomass Crop Yield. It was published in the March/April 2010 issue of Agronomy Journal.

Led by associate professor Gregg Johnson, the research team investigated the differences in woody and herbaceous crop productivity and biomass yield of crops planted on seven varying landscape positions at the University of Minnesota’s Agricultural Ecology Research Farm. Terrain features were analysed using GIS technology.

Crops evaluated in the study were alfalfa, corn stover, corn, grain, willow (two clones), cottonwood, poplar and switchgrass. Landscape positions included summit (excellent water drainage but visible erosion), depositional (receives water from two hill slopes and is characterized by poor drainage and accumulated topsoil), flat (poorly drained but has retained topsoil) and four hill slopes with east, south, southwest and north aspects.

The study also takes into account the fact that soil physical and chemical properties change depending on landscape position.”

Source: Biomass Magazine