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Title: Bioenergy crop productivity and potential climate change mitigation from marginal lands in the United States: An ecosystem modeling perspective

Growing biomass feedstocks from marginal lands is becoming an increasingly attractive choice for producing biofuel as an alternative energy to fossil fuels. Here, we used a biogeochemical model at ecosystem scale to estimate crop productivity and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from bioenergy crops grown on marginal lands in the United States. Two broadly tested cellulosic crops, switchgrass, and Miscanthus, were assumed to be grown on the abandoned land and mixed crop–vegetation land with marginal productivity. Production of biomass and biofuel as well as net carbon exchange and nitrous oxide emissions were estimated in a spatially explicit manner. We found that, cellulosic crops, especially Miscanthus could produce a considerable amount of biomass, and the effective ethanol yield is high on these marginal lands. For every hectare of marginal land, switchgrass and Miscanthus could produce 1.0–2.3 kl and 2.9–6.9 kl ethanol, respectively, depending on nitrogen fertilization rate and biofuel conversion efficiency. Nationally, both crop systems act as net GHG sources. Switchgrass has high global warming intensity (100–390 g CO 2eq l –1 ethanol), in terms of GHG emissions per unit ethanol produced. Miscanthus, however, emits only 21–36 g CO 2eq to produce every liter of ethanol. To reach the mandated cellulosic ethanolmore » target in the United States, growing Miscanthus on the marginal lands could potentially save land and reduce GHG emissions in comparison to growing switchgrass. Furthermore, the ecosystem modeling is still limited by data availability and model deficiencies, further efforts should be made to classify crop–specific marginal land availability, improve model structure, and better integrate ecosystem modeling into life cycle assessment.« less
ORCiD logo [1] ;  [1] ;  [2]
  1. Purdue Univ., West Lafayette, IN (United States)
  2. Univ. of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, IL (United States)
Publication Date:
Grant/Contract Number:
FG02-08ER64599; NSF-1028291; NSF-0630319
Accepted Manuscript
Journal Name:
Global Change Biology. Bioenergy
Additional Journal Information:
Journal Volume: 7; Journal Issue: 6; Journal ID: ISSN 1757-1693
Research Org:
Purdue Univ., West Lafayette, IN (United States)
Sponsoring Org:
USDOE Office of Science (SC), Biological and Environmental Research (BER) (SC-23). Climate and Environmental Sciences Division; USDOE
Country of Publication:
United States
54 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES; Biofuel; Switchgrass; Global Waring Potential; Greenhouse Gas Emission; Land Use Change; Life Cycle Assessment; Miscanthus; Nitrous Oxide
OSTI Identifier:
Alternate Identifier(s):
OSTI ID: 1400662