Biofuels are fuels derived from living, or recently living organisms. These fuels are important because unlike fossil fuels, they are renewable, which will can help provide a more sustainable fuel supply. First generation biofuels derived from corn and soybeans have remained as part of a viable solution, but with the increasing demand for fuel, more biofuels are needed. Perennial grasses have many characteristics that make them suitable for a dedicated bioenergy crop.  Being able to grow perennial grasses on marginal lands with minimal inputs is valuable to both farmers and the environment.  The current policy related to the EISA also helps support the expansion of perennial grasses as feedstock for biofuels. Forage research that has already been completed can also be used to help researchers learn more about processing perennial grasses to create fuels.

In the following lessons, we will discuss perennial grass breeding, plant growth and development, and production of perennial grasses for a dedicated energy crop. Within the lessons, information related to forage will be included because many of the goals of forage production overlap with goals of biomass production for a dedicated energy crop.

The image above depicts research plots in a perennial grass breeding program. Perennial grass breeding is an essential part of creating perennial grasses suitable for biofuel production. Image credit: Kurt Stepnitz, Michigan State University