Skip to main content
ARS Home » Plains Area » Mandan, North Dakota » Northern Great Plains Research Laboratory » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #263131

Title: Balancing feedstock economics and ecosystem services

item ANAND, MANIK - Auburn State University
item Archer, David
item BERGTOLD, JASON - Kansas State University
item CANALES, ELIZABETH - Kansas State University

Submitted to: Book Chapter
Publication Type: Book / Chapter
Publication Acceptance Date: 12/22/2010
Publication Date: 9/27/2011
Citation: Anand, M., Archer, D.W., Bergtold, J.S., Canales, E. 2011. Balancing feedstock economics and ecosystem services. IN: R. Braun, D.L. Karlen, and D. Johnson (ed.) Sustainable Alternative Fuel Feedstock Opportunities, Challenges and Roadmaps for Six U.S. Regions: Proceedings of the Sustainable Feedstocks for Advance Biofuels Workshop. Soil Water Conserv. Soc., Ankeny, IA. Book Chapter. p. 193-216.

Interpretive Summary: Producing biomass for energy use can affect the environment and the benefits people get from the environment. Producing biomass for energy use can also generate profits at the farm level. This paper looks at the balance between generating profits and the environment when producing biomass for energy. A literature review is provided to provide a broad overview. A case study on corn stover harvest is used as a specific example. The example looks at the tradeoff between soil organic carbon and profits at the farm level. Case study results showed that corn stover could be harvested while building soil carbon if the farmer used no-till management. Use of no-till could also increase profits. Limiting the amount of stover harvested could provide greater soil carbon benefits, but would reduce farm profit.

Technical Abstract: The purpose of this analysis is to examine the economic balance between production of cellulosic biofuel feedstocks and ecosystem services at the farm level. A literature review of the economics of ecosystem services, ecosystem service impacts of biofuel production, and economic factors influencing cellulosic biofuel production decisions at the farm level is provided as a broad overview. A case study on corn (Zea mays L.) stover harvest is used to illustrate a specific example of the balance between economic returns and the provision of ecosystem services as measured by changes in soil organic carbon (SOC). Case study results showed that SOC declined with increasing biomass harvest rates within each tillage system. However, harvest of corn stover for bioenergy with adoption of no-till (NT) could result in positive economic returns and increases in SOC relative to moldboard plow (MP) tillage systems without residue harvest, indicating a potential win-win scenario for economics and ecosystem services. Placing limits on crop residue harvest could further increase SOC, however at a cost to farm profitability. Results show that requiring 30% residue cover at planting would reduce net returns by $14.52 per acre.