Biofuel Bumper Crop


Key Content Areas: Bioenergy, Biotic and Abiotic Interactions, Scientific Inquiry, Natural Variation, Climate Change
Contributors: A. Edelman, J. Ru, T. Fleming, A. Taylor
Grade Levels: 7-12, Undergraduate
Time Needed: 115 minutes; 1-2 weeks

Switchgrass, a native perennial grass that can be grown on marginal lands, has recently gained attention for its ability to sequester carbon and produce biomass that can be used to create bio-ethanol. However, switchgrass has not been domesticated, and a high degree of uncertainty exists about germination rates, yields, and costs for farmers looking to grow fuel. In this lab, students investigate germination rates of varieties of switchgrass seeds under different environmental conditions to simulate variations soil pH and determine which varieties will grow best in their local region.


Download Curriculum

Links will open in a new window or download as a PDF. Contact us for editable versions of these files to customize for your classroom.
Full Manual (includes Teacher and Student)
Teacher Manual
Student Manual
Student Worksheet (.xlsx)
Switchgrass Germination Class Data Analysis (.xlsx)

Pre- and Postlab Resources

Acid Rain – US EPA
Bioenergy Grass Feedstock: Current Options and Prospects for Trait Improvement Using Emerging Genetic, Genomic, and Systems Biology Toolkits (Review Article)
Food versus Fuel: Native Plants Make Better Ethanol Scientific American (2013)
pH Affects Seed Germination of Eight Bedding Plant Species HortScience (1990)
Cellulosic Biomass – Fueling the Future (Part 1) (Video) Canadian Cellulosic Biofuel Network (2012)
Cellulosic Biomass – Redesigning Crops for Biofuel and Bioproducts (Part 2) (Video) Canadian Cellulosic Biofuel Network (2012)

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