Results: “Central Kentucky Producers' Opinion on Switchgrass Production for Energy.”
In May 2011, Eastern Kentucky University’s Center for Renewable and Alternative Fuel Technologies (CRAFT) conducted a survey to determine central Kentucky farmers’ opinions on growing switchgrass for the production of biofuels. The survey was sent to 1,025 randomly selected farmers, who owned greater than 20 acres within a 50 mile radius of a potential biodiesel plant located in Winchester, KY during the 2007 Kentucky Agricultural Census. The survey consisted of 18 questions regarding farming operation, knowledge of and interest in growing switchgrass for energy, and demographic characteristics.
So what were the results? The survey had a response rate of 16%, with 93% of respondents having owned or leased farmland in 2010. Overall, producers were not familiar with switchgrass as an energy crop. When asked if they would consider growing switchgrass on their farm, 24% stated that they would consider growing switchgrass, 34% were not sure, but would be interested in more information, and 42% would not consider growing switchgrass. Of the respondents who said they would not consider growing switchgrass, satisfaction with their current operation ranked highest (31%), with pending retirement from farming (18.5%) and better use for the land (10%) ranked second and third respectively. Those producers willing to establish switchgrass as a bioenergy source indicated they would produce on average 29 acres on their farm.
The results of this study reveal that the majority of the agricultural producers were not familiar with switchgrass as an energy crop and were more willing to grow switchgrass if they operated a larger farm and had a higher total gross farm income. If switchgrass is to be grown on local farms, outreach programs will need to be developed to educate farmers about switchgrass. This is evident as 63% of the survey respondents stated they never attended an extension workshop or field day during 2010. There may also be need of different avenues for educating farmers about switchgrass, as most producers obtain their information from a combination of newsletters, local newspapers, and workshops.
Does this report mean we'll have enough farmers to support a commercial facility? Amber Goff, one of CRAFT’s researchers who piloted the project answered this question:
“From the report we were able to determine the acreage the producers were willing to convert to switchgrass production based on a net income of $110/acre. Using the suggested yield of 50 gallons of algal oil from 1 metric ton of switchgrass, we would be able to supply switchgrass to a 50 million gallon per year facility at a distance of 40 miles from the facility. Producers at the 40 mile radius would produce switchgrass on 309,217.6 acres, with a theoretical yield of 84,155,200 gallons of algal oil.”
Amber also added that, “Although our survey shows that people are willing to produce switchgrass and it would be a sufficient amount, we will need to continue educating the public about switchgrass as a source of energy. I believe that keeping an open dialogue with those in the community about our research and plans for a biodiesel facility will allow us to more easily move forward with our goals.”
Goff, A., O’Connor, F., Pratt, B., Foster, C. (2011) Central Kentucky Producers Opinion on Switchgrass Production for Energy. Center for Renewable and Alternative Fuel Technologies. Eastern Kentucky University. Richmond, Kentucky. USA.
*Funded by the Appalachian Regional Commission and EKU Center for Renewable & Alternative Fuel Technologies.
Published on November 09, 2011