Continuous Living Cover in the Lake Decatur Watershed

From its headwaters near Bloomington, Illinois, the Sangamon River flows through the cities of Decatur and Springfield on its way to meet the Illinois River. The Upper Sangamon River Watershed covers about 1425 square miles. The Lake Decatur dam, built in the early 1920s, impounds the Sangamon to create a lake used for recreation and the city’s domestic and industrial water supply. The watershed area upstream of the dam is about 925 square miles.

Decatur businessman A. E. Staley played a significant early role in transforming the agricultural landscape of Central Illinois and much of the Corn Belt when his company opened a “plant for grinding and extracting the oil from the soya bean” in 1922.

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AWI Shows Importance of Cover Crops

Prairie for Bioenergy Project

Caterpillar, Inc. (CAT) and the Agricultural Watershed Institute (AWI) are conducting a multi-year joint project to demonstrate production of perennial prairie grasses and forbs for bioenergy on property owned by CAT in Decatur, Illinois. Learn more at our Prairie for Bioenergy page.

Local Bioenergy Initiative

The Local Bioenergy Initiative is a project of the Agricultural Watershed Institute, in cooperation with participating individuals, agencies, and organizations. It is a collaborative project to begin growning and using perennial energy grasses in Central Illinois.

In the not-so-distant future, perennial energy grasses and crop residues may be used to make advanced liquid biofuels for transportation. With current technology, renewable biomass can be used to heat buildings and generate electricity.

Using biomass to replace fossil fuel produces many benefits. The value of ecosystem services is likely to be important to the economic viability of energy crops. [read this brochure]

The Once and Future Prairie State

Done well, production and use of perennial energy crops can provide multiple benefits, including renewable energy with reduced greenhouse gas emissions; protection of soil resources; enhanced water quality, biodiversity, and wildlife habitat; increased and diversified farm income; and sustainable economic development… [read more*]

*Please note that this is a 6-page, full-color, illustrated brochure that make take some time to load.

Energy Grasses: From Field to Furnace at the 2009 Farm Progress Show in Decatur, Illinois

AWI organized the Energy Grass Education Area at the 2009 Farm Progress Show. This was the first time renewable energy from perennial biomass has been showcased at this major event.

The video above, produced by the University of Illinois Agroecology and Sustainable Agriculture Program, follows energy grasses from field-to-furnace through interviews with exhibitors and visitors, including AWI Board chairman Ted Shambaugh. The energy grass plots in Progress City were established by AWI and U. of I. bioenergy researchers.