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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: SOIL CARBON CYCLING, TRACE GAS EMISSION, TILLAGE AND CROP RESIDUE MANAGEMENT

Location: Soil Management Research

Title: Energy crops to combat climate change

Author
item Jaradat, Abdullah

Submitted to: Book Chapter
Publication Type: Book / Chapter
Publication Acceptance Date: June 22, 2010
Publication Date: October 1, 2011
Citation: Jaradat, A.A. 2011. Energy crops to combat climate change. In: Yadav, S.S., Redden, R.J., Hatfield, J.L., Lotze-Campen, H., Hall, A.E., editors. Crop Adaptation to Climate Change. West Sussex, UK: John Wiley & Sons, Inc. p. 546-555.

Interpretive Summary: Energy crops are set to increase in the developing as well as the developed world. Energy cropping systems are expected to help offset greenhouse gas emissions and contribute positively to global climate change adaptation and mitigation efforts; however, quantifying that offset is complex and contentious. A combination of larger yields and more efficient processing methods are needed to maximize the environmental benefits of energy crops. Positive impacts on ecosystem services will be more important when dedicated energy crops are deployed at a large scale in the landscape. For global climate change mitigation, the development of improved processing methods will be critical if the maximum benefits possible are to be achieved. Dedicated energy crops can have the added benefit of providing certain ecosystem services, including carbon sequestration, biodiversity enrichment, salinity mitigation, and soil and water quality enhancement. The value of these services will depend on the particular bioenergy system in question and the reference land use that it displaces. There is significant potential for improvement in combating climate change through genetic optimization and research on cultural practices, harvesting, storage and transport of potential energy crops. Genomic and agronomic strategies are needed to maximize biomass yield and to improve quality of energy crops. Genetic modifications are needed to help simplify and streamline industrial processes to breakdown cellulose, hemicellulose, and lignin. For a life cycle analysis to be informative and to help validate bioenergy as a means of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, a comprehensive understanding of direct and indirect impacts and interactions of a wide range of biophysical, biochemical, and management factors is needed. This information will benefit geneticists, agronomists, entrepreneurs, and farmers by ensuring that future energy crops have a positive and sustainable impact on global climate change adaptation and mitigation efforts.

Technical Abstract: The share of bioenergy produced from traditional and dedicated energy crops is expected to increase in the developing as well as the developed world. Dedicated energy crops, in particular, are expected to help offset greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and contribute positively to global climate change (GCC) adaptation and mitigation efforts. However, the equity considerations of using biological systems to store carbon and reduce GHG emissions are complex and contentious. Currently, traditional crops and cropping systems used to produce bioenergy are not sustainable and their exploitation may contribute to further environmental degradation. The need is urgent to identify new genetic resources and develop dedicated energy crops (DECs), evaluate their energy and GCC mitigation potential, optimize their utilization, maximize their energy output, and ensure a wide range of ecosystem services.

Last Modified: 8/21/2014
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