Saturday, August 27, 2011

Raising Switchgrass

For several years we have been hearing about the feasibility of making cellulose ethanol from Switchgrass. It appears to be closer to a reality as a plant is being planned in Iowa. We raised Certified Trail Blazer Switchgrass on our Seward County farm back in the 1980's. It was at that time that many acres of highly erodible cropland was taken out of production and planted to permanent cover under the USDA Conservation Reserve Program. Switch grass was an ideal native species to include in a mixture of grasses to emulate the Native tall grass prairie. Elaine is standing in a field of Switchgrass is late summer.
Later in the fall we would harvest it with our little Allis-Chalmers All-Crop Harvestor (Combine). It was necessary to spread the harvested seed out to dry which we did by placing heavy plastic sheets in the house and farm buildings. We then spread out the seed to a depth of only 2-3" to dry. Some times we ran it back through the combine before taking it over to Miller Seed Company in York, NE where it was further cleaned and bagged. There was a high demand for locally grown seed at that time and it proved to be the most profitable aspect of our farming adventure. For someone who hadn't been involved in actual farming operations for a number of years, it was a tremendous challenge to get the machinery set properly and to even find the nearly 100 grease fittings on the combine.

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