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NASA-funded study to examine crops' effect on weather

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Switchgrass
Switchgrass is one increasingly popular source of fuel for making ethanol.
MPR Photo/Mark Steil

(AP) - A new study at South Dakota State University -- and funded by NASA -- will try to find out how a move from corn and soybeans to grasses grown primarily for biofuel would affect the weather.

      Scientists will use various field and modeling approaches to examine the potential impacts of such a shift in North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, western Minnesota and northern Iowa under various scenarios of biofuel cultivation.

      Senior scientist Michael Wimberly says the researchers are not trying to predict exactly what would happen. He says the goal is to make broad but reasonable assumptions so potential consequences can become part of the discussion.

      The $738,000 study is a collaboration among scientists at SDSU, the School of Mines in Rapid City and the U.S. Geological Survey's EROS Data Center near Sioux Falls.

             (Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)