Analyzing the effect of biofuel expansion on land use in major producing countries: evidence of increased multiple cropping

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Abstract

Estimates on impacts of biofuel production often use models with limited ability to incorporate changes in land use, notably cropping intensity. This review studies biofuel expansion between 2000 and 2010 in Brazil, the USA, Indonesia, Malaysia, China, Mozambique, South Africa plus 27 EU member states. In 2010, these countries produced 86 billion litres of ethanol and 15 billion litres of biodiesel. Land use increased by 25 Mha, of which 11 Mha is associated with co-products, i.e. by-products of biofuel production processes used as animal feed. In the decade up to 2010, agricultural land decreased by 9 Mha overall. It expanded by 22 Mha in Brazil, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Mozambique, some 31 Mha was lost in the USA, the EU, and South Africa due to urbanization, expansion of infrastructure, conversion into nature, and land abandonment. Increases in cropping intensity accounted for 42 Mha of additional harvested area. Together with increased co-product availability for animal feed, this was sufficient to increase the net harvested area (NHA, crop area harvested for food, feed, and fiber markets) in the study countries by 19 Mha. Thus, despite substantial expansion of biofuel production, more land has become available for non-fuel applications. Biofuel crop areas and NHA increased in most countries including the USA and Brazil. It is concluded that biofuel expansion in 2000–2010 is not associated with a decline in the NHA available for food crop production. The increases in multiple cropping have often been overlooked and should be considered more fully in calculations of (indirect) land-use change (iLUC). © 2013 Society of Chemical Industry and John Wiley & Sons, Ltd

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