A primary issue of concern with biofuels and bio-products is the ability to produce enough feedstock oils without displacing food crops. Plant seed oils have tremendous potential as environmentally, economically and technologically feasible replacements for petroleum, but the relatively low oil yields from existing crops limits the commercial viability of seed oil based biofuels.
Project Goal: To study potential for sequestration of forest carbon in agricultural soils in Massachusetts, based on availability of woody biomass, availability of suitable soils for biochar application, commercially available pyrolysis technology, and estimated biochar production cost.
The food industry in the United States is a major consumer of energy, with the majority of energy consumption related to food handling and storage. Many Americans experience food insecurity and depend on food banks, which must attempt to minimize food spoilage and expenses. Energy costs are a major expense for food banks, so reductions in energy use are critical to increasing the availability of food for the most vulnerable.
To strengthen the rural economy, successful strategies are always needed to reduce farm production cost and increase product values. Organic waste is generally disposed of by being left on the field to decay and/or burned. These treatments yield low values and may cause environmental pollution. Production and use of bio-oil and biochar from organic wastes could improve soil and environmental quality, provide renewable energy and reduce fossil fuel dependency, and increase soil carbon sequestration and mitigate global warming.
Utilities and power developers are buying farm land, removing it from agricultural production permanently, and placing photovoltaic solar arrays on the land. This research effort is investigating the possibility of dual use of farm land for agriculture and photovoltaic electrical power generation.
Project Goal: To further develop the Smart Solar concept in which solar electric systems are made capable of self-regulating their power output based on the needs of the larger grid, resulting in greater solar penetration and increased grid stability.
Project goal: The study will utilize statistical/econometric modeling tools to estimate the impact of individual state-level policies on the growth of solar PV capacity at the commercial scale.
Increased use of biomass fuels is a promising option for renewable fuels that could decrease our dependence on oil and reduce greenhouse gases. Unfortunately, we currently do not have clear knowledge about the plant traits that should be considered bioenergy traits and should be subjected to breeding and selection. We propose to use a grass energy model organism (Brachypodium distachyon), and treatment with two promising plant biomass transformation techniques (biological and thermochemical conversion) to examine the effect of natural diversity on biofuel production efficiency.
According to the USDA New England Agricultural Statistics, nursery and greenhouse production was ranked first among the state's agricultural commodities in 2009 with sales estimated at $168 million. According to a 2007 survey, conducted by the New England Nursery Association there are more than 5,130 firms that are involved in production (nurseries, greenhouses, herbs, cut flowers, turfgrass) retail (garden centers, florists) and landscape services. Forty-six percent of these operations combined these different business elements.
Only 10 years ago the "brown rot" wood degrading fungi were considered to be poorly evolved organisms in the fungal world. It was known that they lacked many of the enzymatic systems that the taxonomically more numerous "white rot" wood degrading fungi possessed, and it was thought that the brown rot fungi just had not yet reached a stage of evolution to produce these enzymatic systems. In essence, they were thought to be more primitive fungal organisms. However, new genomic analyses conducted over the last 7-8 years have turned this thinking on its head.