Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

To avoid carbon debt, Conservation Reserve Program beats fields of corn, soybeans

Date:
August 9, 2011
Source:
Michigan State University
Summary:
Farmers should wait before converting Conservation Reserve Program land to corn and soybean production, according to researchers. A new study focuses on CRP land and its role in the production of biofuels. Researchers show directly for the first time that the carbon costs of converting these lands to corn and soybeans is high -- even when care is taken to protect soil carbon from loss by using no-till cultivation practices.

In terms of carbon debt, CRP beats land used for corn and soybean production.
Credit: MSU

Farmers and policymakers should wait before converting Conservation Reserve Program land to corn and soybean production, according to a Michigan State University study.

The study, which appears in the current issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, focuses on CRP land, a federal program encouraging farmers to grow natural vegetative cover rather than crops, and its role in the production of biofuels. A team of MSU researchers shows directly for the first time that the carbon costs of converting these lands to corn and soybeans is high -- even when care is taken to protect soil carbon from loss by using no-till cultivation practices.

Carbon debt results from carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases released when land is converted from natural vegetation to agriculture. It's called debt because until a new biofuel crop creates enough renewable fuel to offset the lost CO2, the new biofuel crop has no climate benefit. In fact, it's the same as burning fossil fuel as far as the atmosphere is concerned, said Ilya Gelfand, MSU postdoctoral researcher who worked with the Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center.

"Conversion creates carbon debt, which must be paid off before the biofuel crop can provide climate mitigation benefits," he said. "No-till practices (planting without plowing) reduced by two-thirds the amount of debt created by the conversion, but still it would take 29 to 40 years for it to be repaid by growing corn and soybean for biofuel."

Alternatively, growing CRP grasses harvested for cellulosic ethanol would create no debt and provide immediate energy and climate mitigation benefits, he added.

"The conversion of CRP lands to corn and soybean production has a larger climate consequence than has been previously estimated," Gelfand said. "And much of the debt comes from the loss of soil carbon that would have been stored in CRP land in the future had it not been converted."

Nationally, more than 30 million acres are set aside as CRP land, and they provide significant climate, wildlife and other conservation benefits, said Phil Robertson, a co-author and MSU professor of crop and soil sciences.

"Growing CRP grasses rather than using the land for corn or corn-soybean production could maintain these benefits indefinitely while providing a valuable bioenergy feedstock," he said. "It could be a win-win for farmers and the environment once a market for cellulosic biofuel develops."

The GLBRC team also included MSU researchers Poonam Jasrotia and Stephen Hamilton as well as scientists from the University of Toledo. The study was performed at Michigan State's Kellogg Biological Station in partnership with MSU's Long-term Ecological Research program funded by the National Science Foundation.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Michigan State University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. I. Gelfand, T. Zenone, P. Jasrotia, J. Chen, S. K. Hamilton, G. P. Robertson. Carbon debt of Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) grasslands converted to bioenergy production. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2011; DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1017277108

Cite This Page:

Michigan State University. "To avoid carbon debt, Conservation Reserve Program beats fields of corn, soybeans." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 9 August 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/08/110809104307.htm>.
Michigan State University. (2011, August 9). To avoid carbon debt, Conservation Reserve Program beats fields of corn, soybeans. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 25, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/08/110809104307.htm
Michigan State University. "To avoid carbon debt, Conservation Reserve Program beats fields of corn, soybeans." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/08/110809104307.htm (accessed July 25, 2014).

Share This




More Plants & Animals News

Friday, July 25, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Boy Attacked by Shark in Florida

Boy Attacked by Shark in Florida

Reuters - US Online Video (July 24, 2014) An 8-year-old boy is bitten in the leg by a shark while vacationing at a Florida beach. Linda So reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Goma Cheese Brings Whiff of New Hope to DRC

Goma Cheese Brings Whiff of New Hope to DRC

Reuters - Business Video Online (July 24, 2014) The eastern region of the Democratic Republic of Congo, mainly known for conflict and instability, is an unlikely place for the production of fine cheese. But a farm in the village of Masisi, in North Kivu is slowly transforming perceptions of the area. Known simply as Goma cheese, the Congolese version of Dutch gouda has gained popularity through out the region. Ciara Sutton reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Tyrannosaur Pack-Hunting Theory Aided By New Footprints

Tyrannosaur Pack-Hunting Theory Aided By New Footprints

Newsy (July 24, 2014) A new study claims a set of prehistoric T-Rex footprints supports the theory that the giant predators hunted in packs instead of alone. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Bill Gates: Health, Agriculture Key to Africa's Development

Bill Gates: Health, Agriculture Key to Africa's Development

AFP (July 24, 2014) Health and agriculture development are key if African countries are to overcome poverty and grow, US software billionaire Bill Gates said Thursday, as he received an honourary degree in Ethiopia. Duration: 00:36 Video provided by AFP
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