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Q: How far back is the Cornell connection with grass heating?
A: The following is part of a letter sent by Daniel W. Oaks to his brother on Dec. 13, 1877 in the Sioux Falls Dakota Territory (Courtesy of H. David Thurston, Cornell Emeritus Professor of Plant Pathology; Daniel Oaks was his great grandfather).

“Now D.B. I would like to tell you about how we got along without wood for fuel instead of working my team to death a hauling wood from 6 to 20 miles all winter to get enough to last. All summer I just take my mower and horses and go down to the Sioux bottom and in two days I can cut and put up enough hay to last me one year. And then not having to cut it. That is the worst of all. I do sympathize with you that have to chop wood. Instead of doing that all you have to do is whenever tired you can go and sit down by the side of a stack of hay and twist and rest all the same time. I would not chop the wood if you would give it to me. I have altered my stove so that I can burn hay better than I can wood.”

If you would like to see the full text of this interesting letter click here.

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Why consider grasses as biofuel?

Reed canarygrass ready to harvest

It takes 70 days to grow a crop of grass pellet fuel.

It takes 70 million years to grow a crop of fossil fuel.

Grass pellets have great potential as a low-tech, small-scale, environmentally-friendly, renewable energy system that can be locally produced, locally processed and locally consumed. As the US focuses on energy security, grass bioenergy is one of the ways that rural communities can move towards energy security. New York State has about 1.5 million acres of unused or underutilized agricultural land, most of which is already growing grass.

Grass biofuel production does not need to divert any of the current agricultural productivity into the energy market; this biomass industry can be completely independent from, but complimentary to, the production of food or animal feed. It is also a very “farmer-friendly” way to get producers exposed to biofuel production. Some research and development is needed to optimize stoves and boilers for grass combustion, and to minimize emissions.

Grass Bioenergy Attributes