Submitted to: Book Chapter in Text Forages
Publication Type: Book / Chapter
Publication Acceptance Date: October 23, 2003
Publication Date: December 20, 2006
Citation: Sanderson, M.A., Martin, N.P., Adler, P.R. 2006. Biomass, Energy, and Industrial Uses of Forages. In: Moore, K. J., Barnes, R. F., Nelson, C. J., Collins, M. editors. Forages: The Science of Grassland Agriculture. Sixth Edition. Ames, IA: Blackwell, P.635-647. Interpretive Summary: Society relies heavily on nonrenewable energy sources such as coal, oil, and natural gas. Converting forage plants into useable fuels (biofuels), industrial products, and human-use products has been termed the biorefinery concept. Relying on contemporarily fixed carbon rather than fossil sources of carbon as the feedstock for these new products is a renewable approach. In this book chapter, we address the use of forage crops for these alternative products and discuss how management practices may differ from traditional forage uses. We touch on the economics of using forage feedstocks and the effects on environmental aspects.
Technical Abstract: The lignocellulose in forage crops represents a vast and renewable source of feedstock for conversion into liquid fuels, thermochemical products, and other energy-related end products. An advantage of using forages as bioenergy crops is that farmers are familiar with their agronomic management and already have the machinery, technology, and infrastructure in place to establish, manage, harvest, store, and transport the crop. Forage crops offer additional flexibility in management, because they can be used for biomass or forage and the land can be returned to other uses or put into crop rotation. Some of the most extensively studied species for biomass feedstock production include switchgrass (Panicum virgatum L.), Miscanthus, elephantgrass (Pennisetum purpureum Schumach.), reed canarygrass (Phalaris arundinacea L.), and alfalfa (Medicago sativa L.). Currently, biofuels cost more than fossil fuels. Valuing environmental benefits of bioenergy crops, however, may offset the price differential between biofuels and fossil fuels. Environmental benefits include increased soil quality, reduced losses of soil nutrients, protecting riparian zones, recycling nutrients from sewage sludge and livestock manure, and soil C sequestration.