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Joseph R Parish

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Fill up my car with Switchgrass Please
By Joseph R Parish
Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Rated "G" by the Author.

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A conversation with farmer Jacob and I concerning Switchgrass.

Fill up my car with Switchgrass Please
By Joseph Parish

I rounded the north corner of the field when I spotted farmer Jacob on his new, green John Deere. I slowed my van up to almost a walking pace and eased it to the side of the road. I waiting for Farmer Jacob to arrive so I could inquire what my friend had just been planting.

Farmer Jacob slowed his tractor to a craw and pulled up next to the van. He then put it in neutral and climbed out and walked over to me.

“Switchgrass Joe”, he stated amidst the sound of the tractor. “Ever heard of it?”

“Can’t say I have”, I shouted back, “No, I can’t say I have”

Farmer Jacob walked back to the John Deere and switched it off.

“Switchgrass is a native perennial grass”, he stated. “Actually, Joe the stuff grows by itself on the boarders of this here cropland. It’s a weed – a common weed. But the amazing thing about it is that it can produce more then five times the energy that it takes to grow.”

I turned my head and looked at my friend with a strange sort of glance, as if I was inquiring as to his sanity. He must of noticed as he quickly injected, “No I am not crazy. Let me explain to you. “

He explained, “For sometime now we farmers have been working diligently with the Department of Agriculture, you know them government people for farmers. Well anyway, we farmers saved the seed used for the plants, kept track of the fertilizer that we used for its growth as well as the fuel to farm the weeds. We next tallied the rainfall and the amount of the harvest. We did this for a period of five long years. Now when we harvested it we got a yield of about 11 metric tons of bales per hectare."

He turned and pointed to the grassy field next to the one he was previously working in and said,. “Not bad for a plant that you only plant one time.” He didn’t think I saw him but he turned his head from me and spit upon the ground.

I pretended I had not seen him as I looked at the field he had pointed to. It had tall grass like plants larger then I was. I asked, “Can you eat it”
Farmer Jacob started laughing and then spoke,” Heck no Joe, It’s used to produce that there ethanol. It compares very good as it provides roughly 25 percent more energy then corn-based ethanol. Very impressive I thought. I bid good-bye to my friend and was off to do some research at the local library. This prairie grass had me curious now.

I arrived at the library and it didn’t take me long to find information relating to the Switchgrass. My research revealed that the DOE had partially funding the construction of six biorefineries to convert this grass to fuel. This cost the tax payer a total of $1.2 billion.

By using the native prairie grasses, we can avoid any negative effects upon the biosphere as well as displacing the food crops with those of fuel crops. The grass can grow even on marginal land, which the farmers are paid not to grow anything on at this time. Although the native grass does well by its self it can do even better with certain help from mankind. The yield can easily be increased by the use of nitrogen fertilization.

I guess old farmer Jacob must know what he’s talking about.

Copyright .2008 Joseph Parish

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