2012-11-22 06:53:50 - The Chester River Association has launched “Make Every Acre Count,” a campaign to alert Maryland and Delaware farmers about the profit potential and environmental benefits of planting switchgrass on their least productive acres. The campaign features an online calculator that helps farmers determine whether growing switchgrass could boost profits on individual farming operations.
(Chestertown, MD) The Chester River Association (CRA) is proud to announce the launch of “Make Every Acre Count,” a website and campaign to alert farmers in Maryland and Delaware about the potential profits and environmental benefits of planting switchgrass.
Even with corn prices at record highs, planting switchgrass on less productive acres often makes financial sense. Forty-five farmers on the Eastern Shore have planted 600 acres of the plant. But demand for switchgrass is outstripping the supply that those farmers can grow. On the website, farmers can use a simple online calculator to estimate the costs and profits that would result from growing switchgrass on unproductive acreage.
"For too long, farmers have felt that they have to choose between making a profit
and taking care of the environment,” says Virgil Turner, representing the CRA. “Now, with switchgrass, farmers can put unproductive lands to work.”
"Switchgrass is a commodity cash crop that helps the environment,” notes Paul Spies, representing the CRA. “And you don’t need special equipment or training to grow it.”
Learn More: www.MakeEveryAcreCount.org
The high carbon content of switchgrass means that the plant is an excellent energy source. Switchgrass can be “digested” into ethanol, or burned directly in boilers. Chicken farmers are discovering that swtichgrass makes superior bedding in their chicken houses, and mushroom farmers find that it makes great compost.
Further, because switchgrass doesn’t need fertilizers or pesticides in order to thrive, it costs less to produce, and that further boosts a farmer’s net income. The fact that switchgrass doesn’t need the usual agricultural inputs goes a long way toward keeping potential pollutants out of nearby streams and rivers.
But even more importantly, switchgrass has deep roots and soaks up excess nitrogen from the soil -- reducing pollution caused by corn, soybeans, and chickens. That’s why farmers who grow switchgrass will soon be able to sell credits under Maryland’s nutrient trading program.
To learn more about whether making the switch to switchgrass is right for them, farmers are encouraged to log on to the campaign website at www.MakeEveryAcreCount.org. There, farmers can use the Switchgrass Profitability Calculator to quickly get on estimate about whether growing switchgrass can boost their bottom line. All information that farmers provide will be kept anonymous and will not be shared with any third party.
The Chester River Association advocates for the health of the Chester River and the living resources it supports. CRA strives to promote stewardship of the Chester River watershed as well as an understanding of the river's place in the economic and cultural life of our communities.