Farmers interested in bioenergy crops now have a resource to help them determine which kind of bioenergy crop would grow best in their regions and what kind of harvest to expect.
Researchers at the University of Illinois have published a study identifying yield zones for three major bioenergy crops.
“The unique aspect of our study is that it provides detailed information about where these crops can grow, in terms of their location and stability over time, which has not been done in the past,” said U. of I. atmospheric sciences professor Atul Jain, who led the study with agriculture and consumer economics professor Madhu Khanna.
Although corn has been the main feedstock used for ethanol production, relying solely on corn is not sustainable because of its impacts on the environment and food prices.
Other crops show greater potential for ethanol production, particularly large perennial grasses such as Miscanthus and switchgrass. These grasses yield more ethanol per hectare in the U.S, while needing fewer resources than corn.
“With growing interest in bioenergy crops as a potentially important source of energy, it is crucial to explore high-yielding feedstock sources that could provide abundant biomass for large scale biofuel production and minimize the amount of land diverted from food to fuel production,” Jain said. “The extent to which this goal can be achieved will depend on the biophysical potential of producing bioenergy crops on the available land.”
The Illinois researchers studied three biofuel crops to determine where they would grow best in the United States: Miscanthus and two types of switchgrass, Cave-in-Rock and Alamo. They used a land-surface model called Integrated Science Assessment Model (ISAM), developed in Jain’s lab, which takes into account environmental attributes such as water and temperature, biological properties such as nutrient availability, and the dynamic response of the crops to changes in environmental conditions.
The researchers calibrated and validated the model using experimental data collected at more than 75 sites across the U.S., using the model to determine yields over 10 years. They identified regions likely to continuously produce higher or lower yields for each crop, based on favorable or unfavorable conditions.
For example, Alamo switchgrass has a high, stable yield in the southeastern states, while Miscanthus and Cave-in-Rock switchgrass grow best across the Midwest. Across Indiana, Ohio and Kentucky, Miscanthus has about twice the yield of switchgrass, but the yield is unstable, so farmers may have to modify production practices and apply additional resources annually to reduce variability in Miscanthus yields.
The researchers expect that the results of their study, published in the journal BioEnergy Research, will enable farmers to make better decisions about which bioenergy crop to grow. A farmer in the south can look at the maps and see that his area is in the low-yield, unstable zone for Miscanthus, but the high-yield, stable zone for Alamo switchgrass.
Jain said there are many other factors to consider, and the team is working to expand its model to give farmers a more complete picture of the risks and rewards of producing bioenergy crops.
“We want to develop an integrated system that can determine not only the potential yield of these crops, but also the economic cost and variability in returns from their production,” Khanna said. “In some places, farmers may have to invest more to plant these crops. We would like to examine how returns and risks from producing these crops differ across regions.”
The National Science Foundation and the Unites States Department of Agriculture supported this work.
Editor's note: To contact Atul Jain, call 217-333-2128; email email@example.com.
The paper, “Estimates of Biomass Yield for Perennial Bioenergy Grasses in the USA,” is available online.
CONTACT: Liz Ahlberg, Physical Sciences Editor 217-244-1073; firstname.lastname@example.org.
Liz Ahlberg | University of Illinois
New 3-D model predicts best planting practices for farmers
26.06.2017 | Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Fighting a destructive crop disease with mathematics
21.06.2017 | University of Cambridge
Computer scientists use wave packet theory to develop realistic, detailed water wave simulations in real time. Their results will be presented at this year’s SIGGRAPH conference.
Think about the last time you were at a lake, river, or the ocean. Remember the ripples of the water, the waves crashing against the rocks, the wake following...
An international team of scientists has proposed a new multi-disciplinary approach in which an array of new technologies will allow us to map biodiversity and the risks that wildlife is facing at the scale of whole landscapes. The findings are published in Nature Ecology and Evolution. This international research is led by the Kunming Institute of Zoology from China, University of East Anglia, University of Leicester and the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research.
Using a combination of satellite and ground data, the team proposes that it is now possible to map biodiversity with an accuracy that has not been previously...
Heatwaves in the Arctic, longer periods of vegetation in Europe, severe floods in West Africa – starting in 2021, scientists want to explore the emissions of the greenhouse gas methane with the German-French satellite MERLIN. This is made possible by a new robust laser system of the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT in Aachen, which achieves unprecedented measurement accuracy.
Methane is primarily the result of the decomposition of organic matter. The gas has a 25 times greater warming potential than carbon dioxide, but is not as...
Hydrogen is regarded as the energy source of the future: It is produced with solar power and can be used to generate heat and electricity in fuel cells. Empa researchers have now succeeded in decoding the movement of hydrogen ions in crystals – a key step towards more efficient energy conversion in the hydrogen industry of tomorrow.
As charge carriers, electrons and ions play the leading role in electrochemical energy storage devices and converters such as batteries and fuel cells. Proton...
Scientists from the Excellence Cluster Universe at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich have establised "Cosmowebportal", a unique data centre for cosmological simulations located at the Leibniz Supercomputing Centre (LRZ) of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences. The complete results of a series of large hydrodynamical cosmological simulations are available, with data volumes typically exceeding several hundred terabytes. Scientists worldwide can interactively explore these complex simulations via a web interface and directly access the results.
With current telescopes, scientists can observe our Universe’s galaxies and galaxy clusters and their distribution along an invisible cosmic web. From the...
19.06.2017 | Event News
13.06.2017 | Event News
13.06.2017 | Event News
29.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
29.06.2017 | Life Sciences
29.06.2017 | Health and Medicine