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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: SOIL AND CROP MANAGEMENT SYSTEMS TO SUSTAIN AGRICULTURAL PRODUCTION AND ENVIRONMENTAL QUALITY IN THE NORTHERN GREAT PLAINS

Location: Soil Management Research

Title: Biofuel production and soil and water contamination

Author
item Johnson, Jane

Submitted to: Meeting Abstract
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: August 1, 2008
Publication Date: August 1, 2008
Citation: Johnson, J.M. 2008. Biofuel production and soil and water contamination [abstract]. In: Proceedings of the 28th Latin American Chemical Congress, July 27-August 1, 2008, San Juan, Puerto Rico. p. 12.

Technical Abstract: Rising fuel prices and a desire to curtail greenhouse gas emissions are driving the expansion of bioenergy. Grain, woody and herbaceous biomass are potential energy sources. The United States is one of the largest producers and users of fuel ethanol, with corn grain the primary feedstock. Critics and proponents alike recognize that, alone, ethanol from corn grain can not replace gasoline. Considerable financial and research efforts have and are going into the development of commercially-viable cellulosic ethanol production. In addition, utilization of thermochemical platforms is expanding. Regardless of the energy platform, biomass production harvest must be conducted in an environmentally-sustainable manner. On- and off-site risks and benefits vary among feedstocks. Corn grain for ethanol is controversial for several reasons including potential environmental risks. Corn production is fertilizer and pesticide intensive, which can lead to water quality issues. Oilseed crops, like soybean, require fewer fertilizer inputs; however, the risk of soil erosion typically increases following soybean. Non-grain biomass has other uses: animal feed and bedding, protecting the soil from erosive forces, and providing the raw material for maintaining and building soil organic matter. Excess harvest of crop biomass increases the risk of erosion, loss of soil organic matter, and thereby the risk of declining productivity. Soil and water conservation benefits must be included in any biomass assessment to prevent long-term environmental damage as the nation seeks near-term solutions to energy problems. Strategies to minimize potential negative impact of bioenergy while striving to maximize benefits will be discussed.

Last Modified: 9/23/2014
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