The Tallgrass Prairie Center at the University of Northern Iowa recently released a final report for its Prairie Power Project. The project studied biomass production of four different native species seed mixes over three different soil types on non-prime agricultural land on a production scale over five years. Additionally, wildlife habitat and soil carbon sequestration were studied at the site, and in 2012 all of the material at the site was harvested, processed and test burned in the Cedar Falls Utilities power plant.
The site where the study took place, the Cedar River Ecological Research Site, is located within Black Hawk County’s Cedar River Natural Resource Area near La Porte City, Iowa, on the floodplain near the Cedar River. The soil types studied on the site were distributed so that biomass production and animal responses to habitat of four diversity treatments on three soil types could be studied. The four treatments of differing diversity were: 1-species, a switchgrass monoculture; 5-species, a mix of C4 grasses; 16-species, a mix of grasses, forbs (including legumes); and 32-species, a mix of grasses, forbs (including legumes), and sedges. According to the report, these mixtures were all specifically designed to assess their potential value as biomass feedstocks.