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The Center for Native Grasslands Management

Title: Environmental considerations in energy crop production
Year: 1994
Author(s): Ranney, J. W., Mann, L. K.
Source Title: Biomass & Bioenergy
Source Type: Journal
pages: 211-228
Original Publication: http://  
Abstract: Biomass energy has the potential to be a significant source of electric or liquid fuel energy in selected regions of the United States with valuable economic and environmental benefit to the country. By supplying biomass energy facilities with dedicated energy crops, fossil carbon emissions will be minimal or even negative due to carbon sequestration opportunities in the crops and soil. However, to maximize environment benefits, consideration must be taken of relative emissions to air and water, relative erosion rates, relative effects on long-term site productivity, and relative effects on habitat change and biodiversity. This paper is a preliminary attempt to provide information on the probable environmental effects of energy crop production relative to other potential uses of the land. While dedicated energy crop production is anticipated to occur primarily on land currently in agricultural production, some pastureland and forestland with a high potential for conversion to agricultural production may be utilized. Experimental results suggest that chemical use on energy crops will be lower than on most row crops and that land producing energy crops should experience less erosion than land producing row crops. Long-term site productivity should not be a major issue if macro- and micro-fertilizers are added as needed and nutrient-conserving production techniques are used. Biodiversity effects, as with most environmental issues, will depend greatly on how energy crop production is integrated into existing agricultural landscapes, how much land total becomes dedicated to energy crops, and what alternative uses for the land might exist.