With floods in the midwest farmland and corn prices going higher by the day, the idea of growing food crops for fuel is looking like less and less of a bargain. It’s a good thing that we’re already getting a start on what looks to be a viable alternative.

Work has started on the planting of a 1,000-acre switchgrass field in the Oklahoma Panhandle that researchers plan to use in the production of cellulosic ethanol.

The field is being touted as the world’s largest for switchgrass, a drought-resistant perennial plant that grows even on marginal lands. Scientists at the Noble Foundation in Ardmore are overseeing the project and hope that switchgrass proves to be a viable substitute for corn in ethanol production.

Switchgrass doesn’t have to be harvested and re-planted every year, you grow it and mow it like you would grass. It also can be grown on land that isn’t suited for corn, soybeans, wheat, and other food crops so it doesn’t take away from one field in order to support the other. With a little work, maybe farmers can go back to growing food first, and grow switchgrass on the side as a bonus instead of, when it comes to corn anyway, substituting ethanol production for food.