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Production and Life-Cycle Assessment of Switchgrass Across the Heterogeneous Landscape of the Northeast

USDOT / 2011-14. Project Director: Armen Kemanian.

Top panel shows a simplified hillslope with corn and switchgrass in the upper and lower position respectively. The lower panels show an idealized expected pattern of soil moisture, denitrification and N2O flux in a slope with a seep (concentrated subsurface water flow) in a similar slope.

This project will deliver an estimate of the greenhouse gas balance of warm season grasses production systems in the Northeast (NE) United States. The project includes modeling and measurements of greenhouse gases from switchgrass (expanded to miscanthus and CRP land) with emphasis on nitrous oxide emissions. We target soils with limitations for continuous agriculture. We are characterizing the soil organic carbon distribution in the landscape, nitrous oxide emissions and soil wetting and drying patterns. A network of 144 soil moisture sensors (CS616) records soil moisture at 30 minute intervals across the flow paths of sixteen plots in a small watershed located in Central PA. Of particular interest is the interaction of landscape, nitrogen dynamics, and hydrology that determine nitrous oxide emissions in the wetting, drying and draining fronts. This project is part of our collaboration with the USDA-ARS Laboratory at the University Park Campus.