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Experiment Station goes green

In an April 20 Cornell Chronicle article, Amanda Garris explains the many ways the New York Agricultural Experiment Station is ‘going green’ — from simple energy-saving steps in buildings to employing an electric car and pickup truck around the Geneva campus to construction this year of a wind turbine at the Experiment Station’s Cornell Lake Erie Research and Extension Laboratory satellite in Portland, N.Y.

Larry SmartGarris also cites two projects led by Department of Horticulture faculty in Geneva, Larry Smart (right):

“On the Geneva campus, shrub willow is being tested as a renewable energy source. By next winter, two Field Research Unit buildings will be equipped with New York-made biomass boilers that will burn shrub willow wood chips, replacing natural gas with a renewable energy source that can be grown right on campus.

“The willow will be harvested from horticulture associate professor Larry Smart’s research and demonstration fields. The boilers are expected to consume the equivalent of five to six acres of willow per year, so a total of 15-20 acres of willow is being planted to allow three years for regrowth between harvests. The plantings will showcase willow’s yield capacity and sustainable management practices for the new willow varieties bred in Smart’s program.

“‘In addition to heating two buildings, the project demonstrates the feasibility of producing on-farm renewable heat from shrub willow, which can be grown on marginal land not suitable for other crops,’ explained Smart.”

Alan TaylorAnd Alan Taylor (right):

“Switchgrass — a vigorous native prairie grass — also is a promising feedstock crop for ethanol production. However, a big hurdle in farming it is establishing a strong plant stand, which requires seeds that germinate quickly and keeping weedy competitors at bay. To that end, horticulture professor Alan Taylor is working on seed treatments and coatings that protect germinating switchgrass plants from a selective herbicide, as well as more fundamental research on why some seeds germinate quickly and others sleep in.

“‘Once we understand the secrets of what makes the seeds tick, we can work on developing a seed treatment that will give farmers greater success in their plantings,’ said Taylor.”

See also Larry Smart’s Willowpedia website.

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