Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Limited Biofuel Feedstock Supply?

Date:
November 29, 2007
Source:
American Society of Agronomy
Summary:
There is a need to develop the potential of all crops for biomass production while providing a sustainable supply of cellulosic feedstock without reducing soil organic matter, according to researchers.

The United States has embarked on an ambitious program to develop technology and infrastructure to economically and sustainably produce ethanol from biomass. Corn stover, the above-ground material left in fields after corn grain harvest, has been identified as a primary feedstock. Stover and other crop biomass or residue is frequently referred to as "trash" or a waste, implying it has minimal value.

However, when returned to the land, this carbon-rich material helps control erosion, replenishes soil organic matter, and improves soil quality. Organic matter in the soil retains and recycles nutrients and improves soil structure, aeration, and water exchange characteristics. In addition, organic matter is the energy source for the soil ecosystem.

"Sustainable biofuel production will require that the functions of organic matter in the soil be addressed before crop residue is removed from the land," states Doug Karlen, USDA-ARS soil scientist at the National Soil Tilth Laboratory at Ames, IA.

Dave Lightle, USDA-NRCS agronomist with the National Soil Survey Center in Lincoln, NE says, "To date, projected sustainable harvest levels have been calculated by reducing total stover production by amounts needed to keep soil erosion losses within accepted limits."

Most estimates of the amount of crop residue that can be sustainably harvested consider only erosion as a constraining factor, without considering the need to maintain soil organic matter. Recently Jane Johnson and her coworkers at the USDA-ARS North Central Soil Conservation Research Laboratory at Morris, MN, reported estimates of the minimum biomass input needed to maintain soil organic matter.

Wally Wilhelm, USDA-ARS scientist with the Agroecosystems Management Research Unit, Lincoln, NE, and his team compared the amount of stover needed to replenish soil organic matter and control water and wind erosion under a limited number of production conditions—continuous corn and corn produced in rotation with soybean with moldboard plow or conservation tillage practices.

The amount of stover needed to replenish soil organic matter was greater than that required to control either water or wind erosion in the ten counties (in nine of the top eleven corn production states in the U.S.) investigated. This outcome emphasizes the need to further evaluate the validity of widely circulated estimates of U.S. cropland capacity to sustainably supply feedstock for the emerging cellulosic ethanol industry.

The authors conclude that there is a critical need to gather additional high-quality replicated field data from multiple locations to confirm their calculations and to expand the computations to a broader range of cropping systems before major decisions are made about the percent of stover that can designated for biomass energy production. In addition, they state that an extensive effort is needed to expand development of existing crops, discover and develop unconventional crops, and create and deploy advanced cropping systems that exploit the potential of all crops so that biomass production can be greatly expand to provide a sustainable supply of cellulosic feedstock without reducing soil organic matter, thus undermining the productive capacity of the soil.

The article appears in the November-December 2007 issue of Agronomy Journal and was the basis of a poster presentation titled "Soil Carbon Needs Limit Biomass Ethanol Feedstock Supply" at the 2007 American Society of Agronomy meetings in New Orleans in November 2007. This research contributes to the USDA-ARS Renewable Energy Assessment Project (REAP) goals and was funded by the USDA-ARS and USDA-NRCS agencies.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by American Society of Agronomy. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

American Society of Agronomy. "Limited Biofuel Feedstock Supply?." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 29 November 2007. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/11/071128163240.htm>.
American Society of Agronomy. (2007, November 29). Limited Biofuel Feedstock Supply?. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 23, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/11/071128163240.htm
American Society of Agronomy. "Limited Biofuel Feedstock Supply?." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/11/071128163240.htm (accessed July 23, 2014).

Share This




More Plants & Animals News

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Michigan Plant's Goal: Flower and Die

Michigan Plant's Goal: Flower and Die

AP (July 22, 2014) An 80-year-old agave plant, which is blooming for the first and only time at a University of Michigan conservatory, will die when it's done (July 22) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
San Diego Zoo Welcomes New, Rare Rhino Calf

San Diego Zoo Welcomes New, Rare Rhino Calf

Reuters - US Online Video (July 21, 2014) An endangered black rhino baby is the newest resident at the San Diego Zoo. Sasha Salama reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Shark Sightings a Big Catch for Cape Tourism

Shark Sightings a Big Catch for Cape Tourism

AP (July 21, 2014) A rise in shark sightings along the shores of Chatham, Massachusetts is driving a surge of eager vacationers to the beach town looking to catch a glimpse of a great white. (July 21) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
$23.6 Billion Awarded To Widow In Smoking Lawsuit

$23.6 Billion Awarded To Widow In Smoking Lawsuit

Newsy (July 20, 2014) Cynthia Robinson claims R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company hid the health and addiction risks of its products, leading to the death of her husband in 1996. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins