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ARS Home » Southeast Area » Tifton, Georgia » Southeast Watershed Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #322541

Research Project: Enhancing Environmental Quality and Ecosystem Services in Southeastern U.S. Coastal Plain Agricultural Watersheds

Location: Southeast Watershed Research

Title: Potential for production of perennial biofuel feedstocks in conservation buffers on the Coastal Plain of Georgia, USA

Author
item Coffin, Alisa
item Strickland, Timothy - Tim
item Anderson, William - Bill
item Lamb, Marshall
item Lowrance, Richard - Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
item Smith, Coby

Submitted to: BioEnergy Research
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 12/4/2015
Publication Date: 6/1/2016
Publication URL: http://handle.nal.usda.gov/10113/63041
Citation: Coffin, A.W., Strickland, T.C., Anderson, W.F., Lamb, M.C., Lowrance, R., Smith, C.M. 2016. Potential for production of perennial biofuel feedstocks in conservation buffers on the Coastal Plain of Georgia, USA. BioEnergy Research. 9(2):587-600. doi:10.1007/s12155-015-9700-4.

Interpretive Summary: With global increases in the production of cellulosic biomass for fuel, or “biofuel”, concerns over potential negative effects of using land for biofuel production have promoted attention to concepts of agricultural landscape design that sustainably balance tradeoffs between food, fuel, fiber and conservation. The Energy Independence Security Act (EISA) of 2007 mandates an increase in advanced biofuels to 21 billion gallons in 2022. The southeastern region of the USA has been identified as a contributor to meeting half of this goal. We used a geographic information system (GIS) to identify areas for biofuel production from perennial grasses, i.e. "biofeedstocks". We estimated the total production of three perennial biofeedstocks planted as conservation buffers (field borders associated with riparian buffers, and grassed waterways) on the Coastal Plain of Georgia, USA. Land cover, hydrology, elevation and soils data were used to identify locations within agricultural landscapes that are most susceptible to runoff, erosion, and nutrient loss. The protection of water quality and biodiversity are critical environmental concerns in agricultural landscapes, where Nitrogen (N) from agricultural runoff can cause degradation in water bodies. In addition to the amount of biofuel produced by these plantings, we calculated the amount of N that they would remove from the environment. When production strategies were taken into consideration, we estimated total biomass yield of perennial grasses for the Georgia Coastal Plain at 2.2-9.4 teragrams per year. Using published rates of N removal and ethanol conversion, we calculated the amount of potential N removal by these systems as 8100-51000 megagrams per year, and biofuel production as 778-3296 megalitres per year (206 to 871 million gal. US).

Technical Abstract: With global increases in the production of cellulosic biomass for fuel, or “biofuel”, concerns over potential negative effects of using land for biofuel production have promoted attention to concepts of agricultural landscape design that sustainably balance tradeoffs between food, fuel, fiber and conservation. The Energy Independence Security Act (EISA) of 2007 mandates an increase in advanced biofuels to 21 billion gallons in 2022. The southeastern region of the USA has been identified as a contributor to meeting half of this goal. We used a GIS-based approach to estimate the production and N-removal potential of three perennial biofeedstocks planted as conservation buffers (field borders associated with riparian buffers, and grassed waterways) on the Coastal Plain of Georgia, USA. Land cover, hydrology, elevation and soils data were used to identify locations within agricultural landscapes that are most susceptible to runoff, erosion, and nutrient loss. We estimated potential annual biomass production from these areas to be: 2.5-3.5 Tg for giant miscanthus (Miscanthus x giganteus); 2-8.6 Tg for ‘Merkeron’ napiergrass (Pennisetum purpureum); and, 1.9-7.5 Tg for ‘Alamo’ switchgrass (Panicum virgatum). When production strategies were taken into consideration, we estimated total biomass yield of perennial grasses for the Georgia Coastal Plain at 2.2-9.4 Tg yr-1. Using published rates of N removal and ethanol conversion, we calculated the amount of potential N removal by these systems as 8100-51000 Mg yr-1, and ethanol fuel production as 778-3296 Ml yr-1 (206 to 871 million gal. US).