A new hope for bio fuel could spur the Region 8 economy

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - A bright blue sky reminiscent of early Autumn would normally mean that it's harvest time in Region 8, but for one crop the season is just getting started.

Miscanthus is a non-invasive grass that is fairly easy to grow and can be processed into ethanol.

It's sugar-laden leaves are being sought-after by local oil and energy companies.

Tim Wooldridge is the Northeast Arkansas project manager for the USDA Biomass Crop Assistance Program.

"It's going to be an opportunity to lessen the dependency on foreign oil, it's going to be an opportunity to make marginal Arkansas land far more productive and profitable, and then finally, it's going to be a great economic development opportunity."

ASU has been testing miscanthus crops, and research shows that this grass will re-grow for up to fifteen years.

"Miscanthus is going to be a great crop in that it grows from eleven to thirteen feet tall."

It takes about one year for this grass to mature.

MFA will harvest and bale the miscanthus just like hay and send it to a biofuel plant which will likely be constructed right here in Region 8.

Wooldridge says up to 75% of planting costs and upkeep will be refunded to area farmers.

"Farmers here in Northeast Arkansas have been very positive in participating and so we now have more than 6,500 acres for this energy crop to be grown in Northeast Arkansas."

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