GCB Bioenergy

Cover image for Vol. 6 Issue 5

Edited By: Steve Long

Impact Factor: 4.248

ISI Journal Citation Reports © Ranking: 2013: 2/78 (Agronomy); 12/82 (Energy & Fuels)

Online ISSN: 1757-1707

Associated Title(s): Global Change Biology

Land suitability for feedstock development

Land suitability for feedstock development

Policy is driving an increase in bioenergy demand; however, challenges exist regarding the food versus fuel debate. Currently, traditional annual crops such as corn are used to create biofuel, which results in food versus fuel conflicts because these crops are also used for food and feed production. In contrast, cellulosic biofuels produced from feedstocks (i.e. wood, grasses, and the non-edible parts of plants) are not food-competitive. In addition, feedstock crops do not require additional agricultural land because they can be grown on sub-optimal land where food crops cannot grow.

Gu and coauthors developed a model to identify areas that are suitable for expanding the production of switchgrass, a cellulosic feedstock, in the Great Plains region. The model was able to estimate ecosystem performance, which is a proxy for productivity or yield according to regional climate, soil type, drainage, topography, and other site conditions.

The authors first compared the modeled data with satellite-derived data to verify that the model results were correct. They found that the model was able to accurately predict productivity, but it did not account for ecological disturbances (e.g. floods and wildfires) and extreme weather conditions such as drought, which reduce production potential. Overall, the model predicts that that the western portion of the Great Plains region had very low site potential for feedstock development compared to the eastern portion. Furthermore, the model indicated that grasslands of poor quality are not appropriate for cellulosic feedstock development.

Gu, Y., Boyte, S. P., Wylie, B. K. and Tieszen, L. L. (2012), Identifying grasslands suitable for cellulosic feedstock crops in the Greater Platte River Basin: dynamic modeling of ecosystem performance with 250 m eMODIS. GCB Bioenergy, 4: 96–106. doi: 10.1111/j.1757-1707.2011.01113.x
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