Prairie in the gas tank

Two weeks ago today, the Star Tribune reported on the newly published research by the University of Minnesota’s Dr. David Tilman in the journal Science. The full article requires a subscription, but the summary can be read here.

The research has found that an acre of perennial prairie grassland and forbs supplies more energy per acre than grain ethanol or soybean biodiesel can produce. Interestingly, highly diverse prairie communities produced 238% greater bioenergy yields than monocultural plantings after a decade. In addition to the energy benefits, the prairie system is a net carbon sink, reduces ammount of agrichemical pollution compared to corn, and provides obvious habitat and biodeiversity benefits.

Much of Dr. Tilman’s work has been conducted at the Cedar Creek Natural History Area in East Bethel, MN. There are several high diversity native plant communities at Cedar Creek and it may interest members of the Society that tours are offered throughout the growing season by the staff. For those of us who don’t want to wait until spring for a tour of the flora, there is also on on-line guide to the Plants of Cedar Creek.


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