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Forage Day to Cover Bioenergy Crop Uses

18 June 2013

US - Purdue Extension will co-host a field day on the 21st June to teach forage growers and livestock producers about multiple uses of forage.

Indiana Forage Day, also co-hosted by the Miami County Soil and Water Conservation District and the Indiana Forage Council, runs from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. It will include tours of three diverse farms and a field demonstration site where warm-season grasses are being grown for bioenergy.

"Indiana Forage Day this year is going to look at the multiple features and opportunities of forage crops," said Keith Johnson, Purdue Extension forage specialist.

"I think one of the interesting things about the event this year is just realizing that forages are great in terms of soil conservation. We can grow them on marginal soils where corn and soybean production are less able to be profitable. That, and the multifaceted ways that we can use them by grazing animals, harvesting and then feeding the crop, and then, futuristically, looking at them as an energy source in our day-to-day living."

Forage day participants will meet at Walk by Faith Community Church, 515 S. Chippewa St., Roann. Transportation to the farms will be provided.

Farm tours:

  • Flack Farms - This farm has specialized in cash-crop hay for the last 15 years. Farm owners will discuss the production and marketing of hay. They also will demonstrate the use of a new system that converts large, round bales to small, square bales.
  • Stoltzfus Dairy - This dairy farm is unique in that it is a pasture-based grazing system. Farm owners will discuss the transition from harvesting forages to letting cows graze.
  • Jeremy Sweeten Farm - The Sweeten farm specializes in making baleage - a process of baling forages at higher moisture content, then converting them to silage. The farm owner will discuss management strategies for successfully creating baleage and, weather permitting, will demonstrate the process.

The last stop of the day will be a bioenergy demonstration plot that is part of Purdue's work with the cenUSA Bioenergy project. The project is a collaboration of seven universities that looks at growing bioenergy grasses, such as switchgrass, on marginal land not suitable for corn and soybean production.

The goals of the project are to identify grasses most suitable for bioenergy production on various soil types, and to eventually have the infrastructure in place to convert grasses to cellulosic bioenergy, said Chad Martin, Purdue Extension bioenergy specialist.

"It really boils down to the fact that we have a renewable fuel standard that dictates that we need to look at cellulosic resources for biofuels," Martin said.

"When that day comes when we need to actually start producing, harvesting and marketing this material, we anticipate a case where we have a whole new supply chain to evolve. This project is a starting point to get that process evolved and we are working on multiple sections of the supply chain.

"We're looking at the production phase here at Purdue, as well as the conversion technologies."

More information about the event is available on the Indiana Forage Council homepage, under 'Events'.

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