University of Iowa, Repreve, to host miscanthus planting day

By Anna Simet | May 02, 2014

The University of Iowa and Repreve Renewables will host a miscanthus rhizome planting field day on May 7.

During the demonstration, which is open and free to the public, 13 acres of miscanthus will be planted via Repreve’s ACCU DROP planter, part of the company’s three-element, giant miscanthus commercial production system.

Last year, the university planted a 16-acre pilot miscanthus field in Muscatine County, and aims to plant an additional 2,500 acres of miscanthus by 2016 to produce up to 25,000 tons per year of biomass fuel. The initiative is being driven by the school’s goal of procuring 40 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2020, and builds on its existing use of oat hulls, which are co-fired with coal in its boilers.

Ferman Milster, University of Iowa principle engineer of renewables, said though the weather has been rainy, it shouldn’t affect planting, unlike last year. “Last year, the rhizomes sat in a refrigerator trailer for six weeks, but it’s not that bad this year,” he said.

Milster said the planting will happen rain or shine, and that attendees will have a tent for shelter in case of rain. Repreve Renewables representatives will be on site and available for questions and discussion. “If it’s not raining and the field isn’t too muddy, they [attendees] will be able to see the planter working in the field,” Milster said.

Ten of the 13 acres of land the rhizomes will be planted on have been in corn and bean rotation, according to Milster. “We’ve saved a little patch where we have not tilled, and we’re going try and drive through it with a planter, so we can compare both cultivated and uncultivated ground to gauge how the planter goes through it. We may find the planter won’t [go through], and have to quick run a cultivator over it.”

Milster adds that one of the goals of the demonstration is to find out how the planter responds to different field conditions. “Assuming it’s a good planting day, we’ll be out there experimenting all day.”

The field day will be held at 3590 Highway 1 S.W., Iowa City, Iowa, on May 7 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.