Switchgrass for Fuel

By: Shane Symolon Email
By: Shane Symolon Email

Augusta County farmers are taking the initiative in planning for potential alternative fuel sources.

The county is putting out information about a crop called Switchgrass which could eventually sell like corn in the bio-fuel market. Years down the road, Switchgrass could be used to create ethanol.

A few farmers in Augusta County, like Bobby Drumheller and his father, are already growing the plant. They say it won't just help the farmers who may end up selling it as fuel. It may also bring some relief for farmers suffering from high corn prices.

"Once the technology is in place to make ethanol out of this, the corn prices will drop down and also because of the higher price to plant corn that this will be a better source for alternative fuel," says Drumheller.

Miles Bobbit, director of Agricultural Development for Augusta County, says before Switchgrass would be ready for use as fuel in cars, it might have another use involving burning.

"There are some companies that are working on Switchgrass to be used to heat water, or create steam, or even water-based heat," says Bobbit.

Switchgrass burns at so high a temperature, it could even potentially run electrical generators. It could take years to fully develop the technologies.

He says many farmers are interested in starting the planting now.

"Farmers are always looking for a way to supplement the on-farm income," says Bobbit.

There is little risk for farmers to start growing the potential fuel, because it can also be used as feed for cattle.


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