With the development of the bioeconomy in Iowa and beyond, mounting interest is placed on the ability of biomass production systems to meet the growing demand. Woody biomass is especially compelling since trees (1) can be harvested throughout the year and kept growing until just prior to use, and are thus able to fill the gaps between harvest seasons for other types of agricultural biomass and solve the biomass storage problem, (2) offer very high energy output:input ratios, (3) stabilize soil, (4) efficiently cycle water and nutrients, (5) provide habitat for a diverse array of species, and (6) create a long-term, below-ground reservoir for carbon sequestration. Significant questions exist, however, regarding the ability of Midwestern landscapes to provide woody biomass. In an effort to answer these questions, we performed a rapid assessment of woody biomass production and supply capabilities in three regions of the U.S. Midwest—the Driftless Area, the Central Dissected Till Plain, and the area around Des Moines, IA. We used existing forest and timber inventories and conducted interviews with forest professionals to understand the accessibility of woody biomass from natural forests, the availability of and costs associated with woody biomass in the existing timber industry, and the potential for production from short-rotation woody crop plantations.
Iowa State University
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