Biomass Supplies in the US Midwest: an Integrated Geospatial Assessment of Environmental and Economic Impacts
Without knowing exactly where biomass can be harvested, it is difficult to know the Midwest’s true potential for production.
With the help of a Mizzou Advantage grant, geographer Cuizhen Wang is leading a team of researchers in using geographic information systems (GIS), to map out tracts of land suitable for biomass crops. Wang is a geoinformatics core faculty in the MU Informatics Institute, an interdisciplinary research and education program supported by 38 core faculty members from 14 departments and six colleges and schools, including the College of Engineering, School of Medicine, School of Nursing, College of Arts and Sciences, College of Agriculture, Food & Natural Resources, and College of Education.
The GIS Wang is using creates a database by analyzing an area’s soil type and vegetation. That information is then used to generate maps that illustrate the available areas and the percentage of land conducive to growing.
Wang’s research found that native warm-season grasses in the Midwest hold unique phenology metrics, which vary with inter-annual climate dynamics and that the Midwest does indeed have a high bioenergy potential.
In 2012, Wang received a federal grant to continue her research into biomass mapping. The National Institute of Food and Agriculture, a department of the of the USDA, awarded Wang $499,447 to document the current and potential land use change of native prairie grasses and their environmental impacts in the U.S. Midwest. The project, entitled “Perennial Biomass Crop Establishment and its Environmental Impacts in the Midwestern United States,” is led by Wang and will continue through July 2015.