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UNO Professor Finds Benefits in Grass-Based Fuels

Dr. Timothy Dickson, a UNO Assistant Professor of Biology, along with 16 other authors, conducted a study on the effects different types of potential bio-fuels have on other organisms.

Specifically, the group looked at switchgrass and prairie grass, as well as corn. 

Dickson says researchers studied the effects these plantings have on species such as bees, grasshoppers and soil microbes. 

He says the results were not too surprising.

"There’s a lot more species diversity in these perennial grasslands than there are in corn plantings.  And we also found that switchgrass is a pretty good habitat and it compares relatively favorably to these prairie plantings. There’s a fair number of species that are able to live in switchgrass, almost as many as are able to live in these prairie plantings.”

Currently, corn is still the main source of ethanol in the country.  Right now, it’s not economical to make bio-fuels out of switchgrass and prairie, but Dickson says it will be in the future.

He says that’s why researchers are studying some of these environmental effects now, in preparation for a time when these plantings will be used more for ethanol production.