By Darren Orf
Traveling Interstate 29 in Atchison County, with rolling highlands and flat floodplain, is a picturesque yet common snapshot of Missouri agriculture. But one crop, a small 3-by-3 meter plot, stands out from the rest. Although the plant is a strange sight, it’s a possible future for ethanol production.
At Graves-Chapple Research Center, an agricultural research plot visible off I-29, thin, nine-foot-tall Miscanthus towers above the neighboring corn and soybean plots. Jim Crawford, superintendent with MU extension, sees these tall grasses as a future for ethanol, though problems remain.
“It all depends on economics,” Crawford says. Transport costs currently make Miscanthus, a Japanese grass hybrid, an unrealistic option for local farmers. Because of quick combustion and easy management, Miscanthus is a crop for the future—a future that Crawford is eagerly anticipating.
“We’re trying to look down the road,” Crawford says. “We’re trying to get answers for the questions that will come.”
—Edited by Teresa Avila