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UNI's Tallgrass Prairie Center receives additional funding for Prairie Power Project

November 14, 2011
Contact: 

Daryl Smith, professor and director, UNI Tallgrass Prairie Center, 319-273-2238, daryl.smith@uni.edu

Stacey Christensen, University Relations, 319-273-6728, stacey.christensen@uni.edu

CEDAR FALLS, Iowa – The Tallgrass Prairie Center at the University of Northern Iowa has received funding from the Iowa Power Fund for Stage II of their Prairie Power Project, which involves completing development of a mixture of prairie seeds for energy production on marginal Iowa farmland.

The third year of research of the Prairie Power Project Part I, Determining Maximum Sustainable Production of Biomass with a Mixture of Prairie Species, is currently being completed. In 2008 Daryl Smith, director of UNI's Tallgrass Prairie Center, and his team were granted money from the Iowa Power Fund to verify recent research findings indicating that greater numbers of species in a prairie seed mix result in increased biomass production. Biomass is the amount of vegetation produced during one year's growth of prairie plants that can be burned to generate electricity. The greater the amount of biomass, the more electricity that can be produced.

"The burning of biomass as a partial replacement for coal in electrical generation will help reduce air pollution," Smith said. "Using prairie biomass as an alternative energy source to coal will reduce our dependence on out-of-state purchases.  Also, planting prairie on marginal, highly erodible farmland will reduce soil erosion and flooding and provide more habitat for wildlife."

The goal of using prairie biomass as an alternative crop is to increase renewable energy sources, help improve air quality, reduce soil erosion and flooding, and provide habitat for wildlife. For more information about this project visit www.tallgrassprairiecenter.org