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ARS Home » Midwest Area » Morris, Minnesota » Soil Management Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #211044

Title: Can we balance biomass harvest for bioenergy and protect soil quality?

item Johnson, Jane
item Wilhelm, Wallace

Submitted to: ASA-CSSA-SSSA Annual Meeting Abstracts
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: 11/8/2007
Publication Date: 11/8/2007
Citation: Johnson, J.M., Wilhelm, W.W. 2007. Can we balance biomass harvest for bioenergy and protect soil quality? [abstract][CD-ROM]. ASA-CSSA-SSSA Annual Meeting Abstracts. ASA-CSSA-SSSA Annual Meeting. Nov. 4-8, 2007, New Orleans, LA.

Interpretive Summary:

Technical Abstract: Interest in bioenergy is exploding. The numbers of plants fermenting corn grain for ethanol are expanding. In addition, crop biomass is being considered as feedstock for ethanol production as a replacement for natural gas and other thermochemical platforms. Utilization of biomass for energy presents opportunity and risk. If carefully and thoughtfully developed, environmental and economic benefits may be realized by reducing fossil fuel consumption and reducing the need for imported petroleum products. However, there are environmental risks that must be addressed as the biomass industry develops. If the fragile soil and water resources are degraded, they will not be able to provide food, fiber, feed and fuel. The primary roles of crop biomass are to protect the soil from erosion and provide carbon inputs to support the below-ground ecosystem; thus, building and maintaining soil organic matter (SOM)/soil organic carbon (SOC). The big question is how much biomass must stay on the field to provide these ecosystem services. The literature provides initial estimates of the biomass inputs needed to maintain SOC. Grain yield and harvest index can be used to estimate if sufficient biomass is available for protecting the soil resource; if additional biomass is produced, it may be harvested for other uses. We will discuss current research seeking to establish biomass harvest guidelines, which will protect the soil natural resource. As the industry develops, guidelines for sustainable biomass harvest are critical. [REAP Publication]