Organization: Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA)

Research Title: Environmental Impacts of Bioenergy Plantation

Funding Level (millions of dollars):

FY94 0.3
FY95 0.4
FY96 0.1

Committee on Environment and Natural Resources (CENR) Component:
(a) Subcommittee: Global Change Research (100%)
(b) Environmental Issues: Other
(c) Research Activity: Assessment

Organizational Component:
Atmospheric Sciences
TVA Environmental Research Center
Muscle Shoals, Al 35660-1010

Point of Contact:
James F. Meagher
Phone: 205-386-2342

Research Goals:
To improve our understanding of forest and agricultural systems in sequestering carbon and emitting nitrous oxide (N2O).

Research Description:
The departments research program has two major areas of emphasis. Field evaluation of woody biomass crops for use in electricity production in the TVA region. The conversion of significant quantities of cropland to short rotation woody crops for electricity production is one means of reducing net emissions of carbon. Aside from the avoidance of releasing carbon trapped in fossil fuels these crops also increase the soil storage of carbon. The proposed research will provide quantitative assessment of conversion of agricultural land to short rotation woody crops at three replicated sites. These activities will focus on: (1) erosion, (2) runoff quality, (3) groundwater quality, (4) runoff quantity and timing, (5) changes in the storage of soil C, (6) productivity of management practices on these systems. Emissions of N2O from fertilized soils. Recent estimates indicate a 3 to 4 Tg shortfall in the source term for N2O. This affirms the need for better understanding of N2O sources terms, particularly soils, as 70% of N2O emissions in the biosphere are from soil. To date most estimates come from very limited point sampling which are not suited for seasonal or yearly extrapolation. This research will undertake estimating N2O throughout the entire growing season by obtaining replicated samples on an hourly basis daily. Key areas of interest focus on understanding the influence of fertilizer form ( i.e. anhydrous ammonia, urea, ammonium nitrate) and nitrogen rate.

Program Interfaces:
This research program is linked to other elements of the USGCRP including climatic and hydrologic systems with the determination of ways to minimize groundwater contamination of nitrogen fertilizer and human interactions with an interest in environmentally sound agricultural practices and social and economic implications of actions that may limit the use of nitrogen fertilizers or may affect agricultural productivity as a result of low-emitting fertilizers. This program will provide guidance and benefit to agriculture both in the U.S. and abroad. TVA has had long-lasting relations with the fertilizer industry through its programs worldwide and through the International Fertilizer Development Center in Alabama. In addition, other federal agencies (e.g., EPA, USDA) are currently partners in this work. The research also serves in addressing the regional ozone question as soil NO emissions are simultaneous estimated with N20. This activity supports both SOS and NARSTO program elements on tropospheric ozone. The bioenergy work is linked to the DOE fuels program, SERBEP (Southeastern Regional Biomass Energy Program), UBECA (Utility Biomass Electricity Commercialization Association), and USDA in its efforts to provide alternative commodities for agricultural production.

Program Milestones:
Soil Trace Gas Spring-Summer 1994. Initiate study with University of Tennessee on N20 and NO emissions from no-till corn amended with anhydrous ammonium and urea. Summer 1995. Characterize N20 and NO emissions from agricultural row crop production that are amended with animal wastes. Bioenergy Plantations. Summer Fall 1994 Install field plots at Alabama A &M and University of Tennessee, Ames Plantation; Winter 1994 Install field plots and equipment at Stoneville, Mississippi. Spring 1995, Begin collection of data at three field sites.

Policy Payoffs:
Soil Trace Gas. A better characterization of soil trace gas emissions as influenced by source to date on several studies have made these estimates and most of the measurements have been short term (weeks). Bioenergy plantations. A demonstration scale project that will provide information on the environmental impacts of bioenergy plantations and provide insight into the carbon sequestration potential of these systems for a range of species, sites, and locations.