Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Energy crop production on conservation lands may not boost greenhouse gases

13.03.2017

Growing sustainable energy crops without increasing greenhouse gas emissions, may be possible on seasonally wet, environmentally sensitive landscapes, according to researchers who conducted a study on Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) land.

Debasish Saha, postdoctoral scholar in plant sciences, Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences and colleagues, measured the amount of nitrous oxide, a potent greenhouse gas, emanating from plots of biofuels-producing switchgrass -- a native perennial grass -- and miscanthus -- a non-native grass species -- growing in an experimental area in eastern central Pennsylvania and compared it to emissions from adjacent, undisturbed CRP acres. The experiment took place in a long-term monitoring site managed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Service.


This is a plot of biofuels grass being grown in research plot

Credit: Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences

Nitrous oxide is produced by micro-organisms when soils with excess nitrogen from fertilizer and other sources coincide with a near-saturated soil environment after a storm or snowmelt event. It is mostly emitted from agricultural activities and contributes about 6 percent of the total warming influence on the planet.

An increase of nitrous oxide emissions from CRP land planted with energy crops would undermine the logic of using CRP lands for energy crops production. The transition phase -- when energy crops are established -- is one of the most sensitive periods because the plants are small and are just establishing their root system. 

The researchers measured nitrous oxide emissions in the bottom of a watershed that is a realistic example of CRP lands in a seasonally wet landscape. An existing CRP tract was partially converted to switchgrass and miscanthus and the researchers measured nitrous oxide emissions from May to September of 2013 with gas-sampling devices.

The sampling frequency varied from weekly to biweekly, and increased after fertilization and precipitation events. The researchers also continuously monitored soil water content to understand soil water dynamics in the landscape, a critical trigger for nitrous oxide emissions. They installed soil moisture sensors at three soil depths in each of 48 monitoring points and connected each to data loggers through a network of buried cables. 

Saha and colleagues published their findings today (Mar. 10) in Global Change Biology: Bioenergy, suggesting that CRP and other marginal, streamside lands set aside for conservation are good candidates for biomass production. They found that although nitrous oxide emissions did rise above the baseline provided by CRP lands, the increase only happened in a small portion of the landscape.

"Nitrous oxide emissions were only higher in the footslopes nearest the stream that are wet and retain subsoil moisture for the longest period of time after a storm or snowmelt event," said Saha. "So, are energy crops a problem or a solution in this regard? Clearly, a large portion of the landscape planted with switchgrass and miscanthus did not emit more nitrous oxide than the rest of the CRP land, and it is expected that once established, large emissions from the footslope can be suppressed."

Energy crops can help reduce the carbon footprint of the U.S. economy with a domestic source of a renewable fuel. Expanding energy crops, however, requires displacing other existing land uses. The several million acres of CRP lands in the United States, which have been set aside for conservation, seem to be particularly suitable for this expansion.

The federal government pays producers not to grow crops on CRP lands.

Growing biomass crops on CRP lands could be good for the environment, noted research team member Armen Kemanian, associate professor of production systems and modeling, Penn State. "In the northeastern U.S., these CRP lands tend to be on seasonally wet or steep areas of the landscape that are environmentally sensitive. When combined with high mineral-nitrogen availability from fertilizers from adjacent crop lands and other sources, wet conditions fuel the emissions of nitrous oxide.

"Grass energy crops in these landscape locations can provide additional water-quality benefits. Due to the high biomass-production potential, these crops can use up nutrients that otherwise would go to the stream and end up in the Chesapeake Bay. Thus, when these perennial energy crops are added to heavily agricultural landscapes, the results can be a win-win -- low-carbon energy and cleaner water."

###

Others involved in the research include Jason Kaye, professor of soil biogeochemistry and Felipe Montes, research associate in plant sciences, Penn State; Paul Adler, research agronomist with the Pasture Systems and Watershed Management Research Unit, USDA-Agricultural Research Service; and Benjamin Rau, former USDA-Agricultural Research Service soil scientist, now a research ecologist with the USDA, Forest Service.

A U.S. Department of Transportation Sungrant, the USDA and the Richard King Mellon Foundation funded this work.

Media Contact

A'ndrea Elyse Messer
aem1@psu.edu
814-865-9481

 @penn_state

http://live.psu.edu 

A'ndrea Elyse Messer | EurekAlert!

More articles from Agricultural and Forestry Science:

nachricht Researchers discover natural product that could lead to new class of commercial herbicide
16.07.2018 | UCLA Samueli School of Engineering

nachricht Advance warning system via cell phone app: Avoiding extreme weather damage in agriculture
12.07.2018 | Leibniz-Zentrum für Agrarlandschaftsforschung (ZALF) e.V.

All articles from Agricultural and Forestry Science >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: First evidence on the source of extragalactic particles

For the first time ever, scientists have determined the cosmic origin of highest-energy neutrinos. A research group led by IceCube scientist Elisa Resconi, spokesperson of the Collaborative Research Center SFB1258 at the Technical University of Munich (TUM), provides an important piece of evidence that the particles detected by the IceCube neutrino telescope at the South Pole originate from a galaxy four billion light-years away from Earth.

To rule out other origins with certainty, the team led by neutrino physicist Elisa Resconi from the Technical University of Munich and multi-wavelength...

Im Focus: Magnetic vortices: Two independent magnetic skyrmion phases discovered in a single material

For the first time a team of researchers have discovered two different phases of magnetic skyrmions in a single material. Physicists of the Technical Universities of Munich and Dresden and the University of Cologne can now better study and understand the properties of these magnetic structures, which are important for both basic research and applications.

Whirlpools are an everyday experience in a bath tub: When the water is drained a circular vortex is formed. Typically, such whirls are rather stable. Similar...

Im Focus: Breaking the bond: To take part or not?

Physicists working with Roland Wester at the University of Innsbruck have investigated if and how chemical reactions can be influenced by targeted vibrational excitation of the reactants. They were able to demonstrate that excitation with a laser beam does not affect the efficiency of a chemical exchange reaction and that the excited molecular group acts only as a spectator in the reaction.

A frequently used reaction in organic chemistry is nucleophilic substitution. It plays, for example, an important role in in the synthesis of new chemical...

Im Focus: New 2D Spectroscopy Methods

Optical spectroscopy allows investigating the energy structure and dynamic properties of complex quantum systems. Researchers from the University of Würzburg present two new approaches of coherent two-dimensional spectroscopy.

"Put an excitation into the system and observe how it evolves." According to physicist Professor Tobias Brixner, this is the credo of optical spectroscopy....

Im Focus: Chemical reactions in the light of ultrashort X-ray pulses from free-electron lasers

Ultra-short, high-intensity X-ray flashes open the door to the foundations of chemical reactions. Free-electron lasers generate these kinds of pulses, but there is a catch: the pulses vary in duration and energy. An international research team has now presented a solution: Using a ring of 16 detectors and a circularly polarized laser beam, they can determine both factors with attosecond accuracy.

Free-electron lasers (FELs) generate extremely short and intense X-ray flashes. Researchers can use these flashes to resolve structures with diameters on the...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Leading experts in Diabetes, Metabolism and Biomedical Engineering discuss Precision Medicine

13.07.2018 | Event News

Conference on Laser Polishing – LaP: Fine Tuning for Surfaces

12.07.2018 | Event News

11th European Wood-based Panel Symposium 2018: Meeting point for the wood-based materials industry

03.07.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Machine-learning predicted a superhard and high-energy-density tungsten nitride

18.07.2018 | Materials Sciences

NYSCF researchers develop novel bioengineering technique for personalized bone grafts

18.07.2018 | Life Sciences

Why might reading make myopic?

18.07.2018 | Health and Medicine

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>