Rosemount Research and Outreach Center

Rosemount Research
and Outreach Center

1605 160th Street W
Rosemount, MN 55068

Phone: 612-301-1916
Fax: 651-423-1491

Diversified Biofuel Grasslands-Managing Weed Invasion

The Interplay of Soil Microbes, Nurse Species, and Nitrogen

Research Team:
University of Minnesota professors Nicholas Jordan, Craig Sheaffer and Linda Kinkel, together with graduate students Alex Strachota and Laura Felice, and Laura Aldrich-Wolfe from Concordia College

The U of M's Rosemount Research and Outreach Center (RROC) serves as a research site for this integrated research and extension project aimed at lowering barriers to establishment of diversified biofuel grassland agroecosystems. Such systems are emerging in importance because they can function as highly "multifunctional" agroecosystems that provide a variety of ecological services in addition to biofuel production. Unfortunately, establishment of biofuel grasslands is often difficult, unpredictable, and highly vulnerable to interference and invasion by weeds. Preliminary results suggest that interactions with soil microbes may help create these problems, because soil-microbial "legacies" of previous land use can inhibit growth of native grassland species, enabling weed invasion.

One promising option for cost-effective management of this problem is early establishment of "nurse" plant species that directly interfere with weed growth and which appear to change composition and function of soil microbial communities. The researchers propose to address important questions regarding nurse-species effects and weed invasion ecology in diversified grassland agroecosystems:
  1. Do nurse species increase performance of native species relative to invasive species? Field and glasshouse experiments will be utilized to evaluate nurse-species effects relative to effects of a factor of known and strong importance: nitrogen supply.
  2. Do nurse species change microbial composition of soils? Soil microbial populations will be characterized using 454 and other sequencing and microbiological methods.
  3. New biofuel facilities are creating demand for large amounts of biofuel feedstocks in several "fuelshed" regions in Minnesota. Can we form an "agroecological partnership" that will integrate all project efforts, thereby producing site-specific knowledge to support biofuel grassland adoption by producers in these fuelshed regions?



Related Links

Nicholas Jordan, Ph.D., Professor, Dept of Agronomy and Plant Genetics

Craig Sheaffer, Ph.D., Professor, U of M Dept of Agronomy and Plant Genetics

Linda Kinkel, Ph.D., Professor, U of M Dept of Plant Pathology

University of Minnesota, Department of Agronomy and Plant Genetics

University of Minnesota, Department of Plant Pathology

Laura Aldrich-Wolfe, Concordia College, Moorhead