Mixtures of perennial plants that are native to the tallgrass prairie (i.e. polycultures) can be grown and managed as low-input, high-diversity bioenergy cropping systems. The deep root systems of these plants support their perennial nature, which means that farmers don’t have to plant a new crop each year. The expansive roots are also useful for scavenging nutrients and capturing those that need to be applied as fertilizer, which makes them cheaper to manage and less likely to pollute the environment compared to annual crops.
We also know that some prairie plants produce chemicals that have anti-biotic and other qualities that make them useful as preservatives. Our team is characterizing those qualities and conducting experiments to determine how to increase their concentration in plants.