Cellulosic Energy Cropping Systems

This book was conceived and initiated by Dr. David I. Bransby, and it is to him that the final product is dedi­cated. David is a professor in the Agronomy and Soils Department in the College of Agriculture at Auburn Uni­versity in Auburn, Alabama, U. S.A. A native of South Africa, David arrived at Auburn in 1987 to teach and conduct research in forage and livestock management. Shortly thereafter, he was asked to provide oversight and leadership for a federal, multistate grant focused on high-yielding, low-input herbaceous plants that could be converted to bioenergy. David insisted he was not quali­fied because he knew nothing about converting biomass to energy and even thought “it was a crazy idea.” He was quickly reassured that “nobody else knew anything about it, either; renewable energy was a totally new area.”

image001David immediately began learning all he could about the production of energy from biomass while simultaneously educating himself, as an immigrant, about U. S. agriculture. Suddenly he realized that the two topics could provide a nearly perfect union. He sur­mised that the major commodities were often being overproduced and that the government response through decades of farm programs had created “stagnation in U. S. agriculture by discouraging new ideas and change.”

Nearly three decades later, David has built two research and outreach programs, one in forage and livestock management and one in energy crops and bioenergy, that have both received national and international recognition. A cornerstone of these programs has been David’s emphasis on outreach, built on a philosophy that “the ultimate goal of applied research should be to benefit society, and this goal cannot be achieved without getting involved in outreach.” Through his personal involvement with many different stakeholder groups, David concludes that he has “gathered valuable information that has helped me design more relevant research and improve the content of the courses I teach.”

David is convinced that biofuels made from switchgrass and other agricultural crops and by-products can reduce America’s dependence on foreign oil, strengthen farm economies and revitalize rural communities. “Energy crops, while not a total solution, would help by giving farmers new markets and reducing their dependence on farm subsidies.” He has continued his endeavors because “I believe this is really important stuff. It’s going to play a major role in our country’s future.”

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