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

Location: Southeast Watershed Research

Title: Landscape considerations of perennial biofuel feedstock production in conservation buffers of the Georgia Coastal Plain, USA

Author
item Coffin, Alisa
item Strickland, Timothy - Tim
item Anderson, William - Bill
item Lamb, Marshall
item Schmidt, Jason - University Of Georgia
item Olson, Dawn

Submitted to: US-International Association for Landscape Ecology
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: 1/18/2016
Publication Date: 4/4/2016
Citation: Coffin, A.W., Strickland, T.C., Anderson, W.F., Lamb, M.C., Schmidt, J., Olson, D.M. 2016. Landscape considerations of perennial biofuel feedstock production in conservation buffers of the Georgia Coastal Plain, USA. US-International Association for Landscape Ecology. US-International Association for Landscape Ecology, April 3-7, 2016, Ashville, NC.

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 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 nitrogen-removal potential of three perennial biofeedstocks planted as 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 to 3.5, 2 to 8.6, and 1.9 to 7.5 million tonnes for giant miscanthus, “Merkeron” napier grass, and “Alamo” switchgrass, respectively. When production strategies were taken into consideration, we estimated total biomass yield of perennial grasses for the Georgia Coastal Plain at 2.2 to 9.4 million tonnes per year. Using published rates of nitrogen removal and ethanol conversion, we calculated that these systems could remove 8,100 to 51,000 tonnes of nitrogen per year, and produce 206 to 871 million gallons (US) of ethanol fuel per year. Further ongoing work is examining, on the one hand, economic dimensions of lignocellulosic biofeedstocks, and, on the other hand, bio-control services provided by these perennial systems.

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 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'×'giganteus), 2–8.6 Tg for “Merkeron” napier grass (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 year-1. Using published rates of N removal and ethanol conversion, we calculated the amount of potential N removal by these systems as 8100–51,000 Mg year-1 and ethanol fuel production as 778–3296 Ml year-1 (206 to 871 million gal. US). Further ongoing work is examining, on the one hand, economic dimensions of lignocellulosic biofeedstocks, and, on the other hand, bio-control services provided by perennial biofeedstocks.