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Associated Title(s): Global Change Biology
Avoiding Land Use Change; Alternative Use for Bioethanol Co-products
Worldwide, governments are setting biofuel use goals in order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions as well as decrease dependence on foreign oil. The European Union set a target of a 5.75% inclusion of biofuel by volume in the road transport mix by 2010 in the Biofuels Directive, and the United States set a target of 8.25% via the National Renewable Fuel Standard program.
With this increase in demand for bioethanol, the production of co-products is expected to double within the next few years. Fortunately, there are economically and environmentally sound uses for the co-products of biofuel production.
In this article, Weightman and coauthors calculate the benefits of using protein-rich ethanol by-products to replace soya bean and cereals as livestock feed supplements. Soya bean production is expected to increase from 214 million tons in 2005 to 301 million tons of soya beans in 2018. The conversion of undisturbed land (e.g. forests and grassland) to soya cropland (i.e. land use change) can lead to an increase in carbon emissions. These carbon emissions would be avoided by reducing the amount of land that is needed to grow soya and cereals.
The authors found that the use of bioethanol co-products would decrease the amount of farmland needed to grow soya and cereal grains, thereby decreasing land use change. For every 1 ha of land that is used to produce bioethanol, its co-products will replace 0.60 ha of land that would have been used to grow soya for livestock diets. This reduction in land use change will result in reduced greenhouse gas emissions.
Weightman RM, Cottrill BR, Wiltshire JJJ, Kindred DR, Sylvester-Bradley R (2011) Opportunities for avoidance of land use change through substitution of soya bean meal and cereals in European livestock diets with bioethanol co-products. GCB Bioenergy, 3-2, 158-170. Read this paper.