Researchers at WVU’s Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design will use $817,000 in grant funding from the National Institute of Food and Agriculture to study the resiliency of miscanthus, a bioenergy crop that grows well on reclaimed mine land. (Submitted photo/Jenni Kane)

The grass may be greener on old mine sites as WVU researchers test resiliency of bioenergy crops

MORGANTOWN — West Virginia University researchers are working to better understand how climate change may make an impact on a bioenergy crop that flourishes on reclaimed mining lands.

Previously living materials, including perennial grasses like Miscanthus x giganteus, produce bioenergy. Ember Morrissey, associate professor of environmental microbiology in the Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design, is examining the symbiotic relationship between microbes and this type of tall grass to prepare for climate change and decreasing fossil fuel usage.

The research group includes Jeff Skousen, professor of soil science, Louis McDonald, professor of environmental soil chemistry and soil fertility, and Jenni Kane, a doctoral student in plant and soil sciences.

Skousen, an expert in soil reclamation, helped Morrissey establish miscanthus stands on marginal soil for research over the next five years funded with a more than $817,000 grant from the National Institute of Food and Agriculture.

The goal is to determine if fertilization will weaken the relationship between the plant and its microbes and then determine the best way to manage the plant in unpredictable climates.

“If there’s something like a drought, then suddenly water is very limited,” Morrissey said. “Because the plant hasn’t formed those close ties with the microbes that allow it to have enhanced water uptake, it might not perform as well.”

Morrissey, Skousen, McDonald and Kane have miscanthus growing at two research centers in Morgantown. They will also use Skousen’s long-term sites of marginal land in Appalachia where miscanthus has been growing for up to 15 years.

They’re working to determine the ability of miscanthus to regenerate the damaged soils of Appalachia, which earlier studies demonstrated is possible. Production on marginal land can help improve soil health and isolate soil carbon, restoring the land and mitigating climate change.

Having grown up in the southern coalfields of West Virginia, Kane saw the impact damaged mine lands have on communities. Many people in West Virginia and throughout Appalachia own land unsuitable for crop cultivation because of past mining.

“Anyone could grow miscanthus on their land on a small scale or a larger scale,” Kane said. “This could become a crop that can be grown and sold. It could also bring back nutrients and soil structure, so the long-term impact could be economic and environmental.”

Skousen said his life’s goal is to find a way to use the hundreds of thousands of acres of reclaimed surface mines around West Virginia in a productive way to improve the state’s economy.

“We’re a little unique that we have these mined lands,” Skousen said. “We can utilize these lands that aren’t being used now and put carbon back into them. The better we can have plants grow and take CO2 from the air and put it into the ground, the better outcome we can have with climate change.”

Understanding the relationship between miscanthus and its microbes will help Morrissey and other scientists determine the optimal management practice in the future.

“If we are going to transition to using bioenergy, we need to make sure that we can make these crops reliably productive even under climate variability like drought,” Morrissey said.

SHOPS & SERVICES

Featured

Broaddus Wound Care receives Center of Excellence Award

Philippi, WV – Broaddus Hospital is honored to announce their wound care center is a recipient of RestorixHealth’s highest achievement, the Wound Center of Excellence Award. Recipients of this prestigious award meet or exceed national

FBI and local law enforcement lead safety training at Buckhannon Academy Elementary School on Friday

BUCKHANNON – Teachers, staff and administration at Buckhannon Academy Elementary School took part in important safety sessions Friday in an effort to support safety. The training sessions included learning about hostile intruders, how to stop the bleed, room-specific exercises, and […]

There’s more to this story! Unlock immediate access to everything on our site and get two extra months free when you subscribe for a year. Signing up is easy — just tap the button below.

judge court attorney

Upshur County woman admits to fentanyl charges

ELKINS, WEST VIRGINIA – Michaela Dawn Gregory, of Buckhannon, West Virginia, has admitted to selling fentanyl, United States Attorney William Ihlenfeld announced. Gregory, 26, pleaded guilty today to one count of “Distribution of Fentanyl” and

Buckhannon City Hall

City council votes to participate in opioid litigation settlement — but the monetary benefits aren’t yet clear

BUCKHANNON – The City of Buckhannon has opted to participate in the opioid litigation settlement between the State of West Virginia and the U.S.’s three largest opioid distributors. Yet, exactly how much money the municipality will receive – and when […]

There’s more to this story! Unlock immediate access to everything on our site and get two extra months free when you subscribe for a year. Signing up is easy — just tap the button below.

City council approves final design, $4 million budget for long-awaited multipurpose Stockert addition

BUCKHANNON – Buckhannon City Council voted on the final design and budget for the Stockert Youth and Community Center’s long-awaited multipurpose building. City council convened for a special meeting Sept. 21 to iron out the final details for the project. […]

There’s more to this story! Unlock immediate access to everything on our site and get two extra months free when you subscribe for a year. Signing up is easy — just tap the button below.

SHOPS & SERVICES

Soccer ‘Cats earn 1-0 home win over Cedarville

BUCKHANNON, W.Va. — The West Virginia Wesleyan (4-2-2) men’s soccer team took down Cedarville (4-4-1) 1-0 thanks to a rocket from Adam Gribben on Saturday (Sept. 24) at Cebe Ross Field. In the first half,

BUHS Girls Soccer Feature Image

Soccer Lady Bucs pick up two more wins this week over East Fairmont and Robert C. Byrd

TENNERTON – The Buckhannon-Upshur Lady Buc soccer team won a pair of 1-0 contests in Big 10 Conference action this week. At home on Wednesday in their home finale, the Lady Bucs downed East Fairmont by that 1-0 score and […]

There’s more to this story! Unlock immediate access to everything on our site and get two extra months free when you subscribe for a year. Signing up is easy — just tap the button below.

SHOPS & SERVICES

Water Faucet

Anmoore, Millcreek receive large water system grants

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The West Virginia Infrastructure and Jobs Development Council announced funding for four sewer and four water system improvement projects at its meeting on Sept. 7. Details for each project are listed below.