Growers in northeast Michigan are working with Michigan State University (MSU) researchers and Extension specialists to grow switchgrass, which can be converted to heat and electricity by burning it alone or with coal, and MSU release says. The switchgrass, which is a hardy and easy-to-grow native prairie grass, is baled and either burned directly or converted into pellets, useable with both home and large-scale commercial pellet stoves.

Northern Michigan farmers are interested in identifying an alternative energy crop that can be grown successfully in the region and also boost the local economy. MSU Extension educators in northern Michigan and the Upper Peninsula have been conducting research projects for nearly seven years in response to this charge.

"Switchgrass has shown promise as a high-yielding crop in this region," says David Glenn, MSU Extension director for Presque Isle County and primary investigator for the project. "It also has the added benefit of helping to prevent erosion and generating less pollution than traditional energy sources. Heating with pellets made from switchgrass is also less costly than heating with fuel oil or wood."

Plus, he adds, the region's economy "could really benefit from the development of new industrial and manufacturing bases."

To learn more about Michigan's plant agriculture initiative at MSU, visit www.greeen.msu.edu.
-- Joe Roybal