Poster Title: Sustainable Biomass Production on Reclaimed Mined Lands
Authors:Richard Stehouwer, Marvin Hall, Paul Adler (Penn State University)
Poster Abstract: Meeting Pennsylvania’s biofuel energy goals will require much more plant biomass than can be produced on agricultural lands alone. PA also contains over 200,000 acres of abandoned mined lands and each year hundreds of additional acres are disturbed by current mining. Our research is investigating the potential for reclaimed mined lands to sustainably produce plant biomass. Mine soils normally have very low productivity due to severe soil quality constraints including acidity, low organic matter and nutrient status, and low water holding capacity. We are investigating innovative and cost effective approaches to mine reclamation that will remediate these limitations and enable sustainable warm season grass production. Our research has shown that mine soil amendment with an organic nutrient source (excess agricultural manure) and an organic carbon source (short fiber paper mill residual) in the appropriate quantity and carbon to nitrogen ratio rapidly increases soil organic matter and sequesters over 90% of the applied nutrients. Yields of a two year stand of switchgrass were 1.8 tons/acre with the organic amendments compared to 0.5 tons/acre with traditional fertilizer and limestone amendment. In 2009 we expanded our research with plantings of 3 species of warm season grasses in both mono- and mixed-culture and in combination with legumes. We have also initiated a 30 acre demonstration planting of these grasses on mined land reclaimed with manure and paper mill residuals.