Data Dive: Comparing Bioenergy Crop Yields

High School
Stand-Alone Activity

Can perennial biomass crops compete with king corn? In this GLBRC Data Dive, students analyze and interpret data on the biomass production of different bioenergy crops grown on Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center (GLBRC) experimental farms in Wisconsin and Michigan. Students read a brief summary of the GLBRC research questions and experimental design. They then are given the task of interpreting real GLBRC biomass data to answer the research questions about how perennial biomass crops, such as switchgrass and prairies, compare to corn. Extend the learning by combining this activity with The Science of Farming research story, Biomass Yield and Root Growth in Crops field investigations, Root Depth ModelBioenergy Farm Game, and Fields of Fuel computer game.

Read this short introduction to GLBRC Data Dives to learn what they are and how to use them in science classes.

This activity is based on the "data nugget" curriculum model developed by scientists and educators at the Kellogg Biological Station. To learn more and view similar data nugget activities, visit:

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Earth Science

Environmental Science


Plants & Photosynthesis

Biomass, biofuels agriculture, climate, soils, data analysis, scientific argumentation, nature of science

Familiarity with scientific method, hypothesis testing, graphing, graph interpretation, and basic statistics helpful.

One or two 50-minute class periods.

None. Download materials in activity package.