Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Fueling Ethanol Production While Protecting Water Quality

03.04.2008
Scientists evaluate the unintended consequences of ethanol production on water quality in the March/April issue of Journal of Environmental Quality.

Grain-based ethanol production has increased dramatically in recent years as the cost and instability of oil has increased. New U.S. government policies require major increases in ethanol production.

While future plans call for a viable cellulosic ethanol industry, expanded grain ethanol production will lead to further growth of corn acres in the near term, with unintended negative water quality impacts. Currently, U.S. grain-based ethanol production is concentrated in the “Corn Belt”; however, several large production plants are under construction or planned near population centers in the eastern U.S. An interdisciplinary group of scientists evaluated potential impacts of grain- and cellulose-based ethanol on nutrient and animal management as they relate to water quality impacts on U.S. inland and coastal waters, particularly the Northern Gulf of Mexico (Mississippi River Basin discharge). The results of their evaluation were published in the March–April issue of the Journal of Environmental Quality and were also considered in the U.S. EPA Scientific Advisory Board’s 2007 Hypoxia Advisory Panel’s report.

The group of scientists recommended rigorous implementation of advanced conservation measures to minimize N and P losses from new or more intensively managed corn to partially offset nutrient loss increases. These measures include precision and variable rate applications of fertilizers, inter-seeding corn with cover crops, and inclusion of buffers or riparian filter strips. A viable perennial grass, wood, or waste-based cellulosic ethanol industry could provide water quality benefits and other ecosystem services. Regardless of feedstock, policy and scientific decisions must consider and address unintended consequences of biofuel production on the environment, particularly water quality, to avoid higher, future costs of remediation and ecosystem restoration.

Corn prices nearly doubled between 2005 (about $2.25 a bushel) and 2007 (about $4 per bushel; now about $5.00 per bushel) and there was a 15% increase in U.S. corn acres last year. The scientists projected that much of this increased acreage would come from land in soybeans (50%), the Conservation Reserve Program (25%), and hay and pastures (25%). Recent data indicate that much row crop conversion was from cotton as well as soybeans. This would not impact P loss estimates and could increase N loss. Even with recommended fertilizer and management, corn can be a greater source of N and P loss to water than soybeans, perennials, or hay crops. Most of the corn acreage increase occurred in the Mississippi River Basin, and in this basin, most N and P that leaves fields is delivered to the Gulf.

Dried distiller’s grains, a by-product of ethanol production, is being used in animal feeds, particularly for dairy and beef. Dried distiller’s grains contain high concentrations of P and may elevate manure P (and N) content, even when less than 20% of the animals’ diets. This may erode efforts to reduce ration and manure P and will make government feed management programs more expensive and less attractive to farmers. The use of wet distiller’s grains as feed near ethanol facilities avoids the cost of drying the distiller’s grains but requires co-location of animal operations, which will concentrate manure production, often far from grain production, making effective manure use as a fertilizer more difficult and expensive.

Cellulosic fuel stocks from perennials such as switchgrass and woody materials also have the potential to produce ethanol. While cellulosic feedstock production, storage, handling and conversion technology still limit production, a viable cellulosic ethanol industry could reduce dependence on grain and provide water quality and other environmental benefits (such as C sequestration and wildlife habitat). For example, switchgrass, a warm-season perennial prairie grass, produces large amounts of biomass for feedstock, loses very little N and P compared to corn, and stores C in its extensive root system.

The full article is available for no charge for 30 days following the date of this summary. View the abstract at http://jeq.scijournals.org/cgi/content/abstract/37/2/318.

The Journal of Environmental Quality, http://jeq.scijournals.org is a peer-reviewed, international journal of environmental quality in natural and agricultural ecosystems published six times a year by the American Society of Agronomy (ASA), Crop Science Society of America (CSSA), and the Soil Science Society of America (SSSA). The Journal of Environmental Quality covers various aspects of anthropogenic impacts on the environment, including terrestrial, atmospheric, and aquatic systems.

The Soil Science Society of America (SSSA) www.soils.org is a scientific society based in Madison, Wisconsin, which helps its 6,000+ members advance the disciplines and practices of soil science by supporting professional growth and science policy initiatives, and by providing quality, research-based publications and a variety of member services.

Sara Uttech | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.soils.org

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Five-point plan to integrate recreational fishers into fisheries and nature conservation policy
20.03.2019 | Leibniz-Institut für Gewässerökologie und Binnenfischerei (IGB)

nachricht Rain is important for how carbon dioxide affects grasslands
06.03.2019 | University of Gothenburg

All articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: The taming of the light screw

DESY and MPSD scientists create high-order harmonics from solids with controlled polarization states, taking advantage of both crystal symmetry and attosecond electronic dynamics. The newly demonstrated technique might find intriguing applications in petahertz electronics and for spectroscopic studies of novel quantum materials.

The nonlinear process of high-order harmonic generation (HHG) in gases is one of the cornerstones of attosecond science (an attosecond is a billionth of a...

Im Focus: Magnetic micro-boats

Nano- and microtechnology are promising candidates not only for medical applications such as drug delivery but also for the creation of little robots or flexible integrated sensors. Scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research (MPI-P) have created magnetic microparticles, with a newly developed method, that could pave the way for building micro-motors or guiding drugs in the human body to a target, like a tumor. The preparation of such structures as well as their remote-control can be regulated using magnetic fields and therefore can find application in an array of domains.

The magnetic properties of a material control how this material responds to the presence of a magnetic field. Iron oxide is the main component of rust but also...

Im Focus: Self-healing coating made of corn starch makes small scratches disappear through heat

Due to the special arrangement of its molecules, a new coating made of corn starch is able to repair small scratches by itself through heat: The cross-linking via ring-shaped molecules makes the material mobile, so that it compensates for the scratches and these disappear again.

Superficial micro-scratches on the car body or on other high-gloss surfaces are harmless, but annoying. Especially in the luxury segment such surfaces are...

Im Focus: Stellar cartography

The Potsdam Echelle Polarimetric and Spectroscopic Instrument (PEPSI) at the Large Binocular Telescope (LBT) in Arizona released its first image of the surface magnetic field of another star. In a paper in the European journal Astronomy & Astrophysics, the PEPSI team presents a Zeeman- Doppler-Image of the surface of the magnetically active star II Pegasi.

A special technique allows astronomers to resolve the surfaces of faraway stars. Those are otherwise only seen as point sources, even in the largest telescopes...

Im Focus: Heading towards a tsunami of light

Researchers at Chalmers University of Technology and the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, have proposed a way to create a completely new source of radiation. Ultra-intense light pulses consist of the motion of a single wave and can be described as a tsunami of light. The strong wave can be used to study interactions between matter and light in a unique way. Their research is now published in the scientific journal Physical Review Letters.

"This source of radiation lets us look at reality through a new angle - it is like twisting a mirror and discovering something completely different," says...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

International Modelica Conference with 330 visitors from 21 countries at OTH Regensburg

11.03.2019 | Event News

Selection Completed: 580 Young Scientists from 88 Countries at the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting

01.03.2019 | Event News

LightMAT 2019 – 3rd International Conference on Light Materials – Science and Technology

28.02.2019 | Event News

 
Latest News

Solving the efficiency of Gram-negative bacteria

22.03.2019 | Life Sciences

Bacteria bide their time when antibiotics attack

22.03.2019 | Life Sciences

Open source software helps researchers extract key insights from huge sensor datasets

22.03.2019 | Information Technology

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>