Switchgrass — Growing a New Cash Crop: East Tennessee Farmers' First Switchgrass Harvest Ready to Turn into Biofuel

"When Blount County farmer John Davis decided to enter the switchgrass business, he did so with some trepidation.

"I'm a cautious individual," said Davis, who last year planted the native grass on less than an eighth of his family farm through a contract with Genera Energy, which is working with more than 60 East Tennessee farmers to grow the up-and-coming bioenergy crop. He also wasn't sure he could part ways with the beef cattle business he'd been in all his life, even though, with today's production costs, the farm was barely breaking even."

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Genera Energy Joins Freeway-to-fuels Movement with Test Plots for Switchgrass Along Highways

In Tennessee, Genera Energy has planted several plots of switchgrass along interstate corridors in Tennessee in conjunction with the Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT). The test plots are designed to see if switchgrass can help reduce maintenance costs by reducing the need for mowing and may also have the added benefit of producing biomass for energy and reducing erosion at highway interchanges.

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Making Biofuel from Corncobs and Switchgrass in Rural America

"Energy crops and agricultural residue, like corncobs and stover, are becoming part of rural America’s energy future. Unlike the more common biofuel derived from corn, these are non-food/feed based cellulosic feedstocks, and the energy content of the biomass makes it ideal for converting to sustainable fuel.

Last January in Vonore, Tenn., DuPont Danisco Cellulosic Ethanol (DDCE) opened a new biorefinery with the goal of producing at large-scale biofuel from cellulosic feedstock, beginning with corncobs and stover and moving to switchgrass.

DDCE, along with partners University of Tennessee Biofuels Initiative, Genera Energy and the state of Tennessee are working to establish a several-thousand-acre switchgrass crop for the biorefinery."

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