Landscape Biomass Project


Our goal is to develop, refine, and implement a portfolio of sustainable bioenergy feedstock production systems that together contribute significantly to reducing dependence on foreign oil; have net positive social, environmental, and rural economic impacts; and are compatible with existing agricultural systems. We achieve this through research, education, and outreach on the agronomic, economic, and environmental performance of biomass cropping systems.  


Through experimentation, we are developing several alternative biomass cropping systems that represent a variety of crop intensification strategies. In our initial experiment we chose the following alternative cropping systems because of their potential to provide:
  • High biomass yields (Continuous Corn, Triticale/Sorghum);
  • Some biomass yield while mitigating some negative environmental impacts (Corn-Soy-Triticale/Soy and Corn-Switchgrass); or
  • Some short-term biomass yield and superior long-term yield while strongly mitigating negative environmental impacts (Triticale-Aspen).
    Initial Landscape Biomass Experiment

As crop performance is strongly tied to site factors, we evaluated these biomass cropping systems across a series of landscape positions. The experimental plots shown above were located at the Committee for Agricultural Development Uthe Farm, located in central Iowa, shown above (photo credit: Tom Schultz).​

After answering a set of initial research questions at this site, we're moving on to test our hypotheses over watershed scales, which will more easily allow us to close soil, nutrient, and water budgets. We are now in the process of establishing new research sites. The goal of testing a portfolio approach to bioenergy feedstock production remains the same. Our results will eventually allow for optimized bioenergy feedstock production across agricultural landscapes. 

For more information

Visit webpages describing specific research components under the Overview tab above, download a brochure briefly describing the project, or see webcasts describing this work on the websites of Iowa State University's College of Agriculture and Life Sciences or the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture. Contact us through our Meet the Team webpage.


This research is funded by the USDA Agricultural and Food Research Initiative's Managed Ecosystems program, ISU College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture, the National Science Foundation, and the US Forest Service Northern Research Station, with in-kind support from ArborGen and the Committee for Agricultural Development.