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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: SOIL MANAGEMENT SYSTEMS FOR DRYLAND AND IRRIGATED CROPPING SYSTEMS Title: Balancing limiting factors and economic drivers for sustainable midwestern U.S. agricultural residue feedstock supplies

Authors
item Wilhelm, Wallace
item Hess, J -
item Karlen, Douglas
item Johnson, Jane
item Muth, David -
item Baker, John
item Gollany, Hero
item Novak, Jeffrey
item Stott, Diane
item Varvel, Gary

Submitted to: Industrial Biotechnology
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: August 27, 2010
Publication Date: October 1, 2010
Repository URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10113/47215
Citation: Wilhelm, W.W., Hess, J.R., Karlen, D.L., Johnson, J.M., Muth, D.J., Baker, J.M., Gollany, H.T., Novak, J.M., Stott, D.E., Varvel, G.E. 2010. Balancing limiting factors and economic drivers for sustainable midwestern U.S. agricultural residue feedstock supplies. Industrial Biotechnology. 6(5):271-287.

Interpretive Summary: Advanced biofuels will be developed using cellulosic feedstock rather than grain or oilseed crops that can also be used for food and feed. To be sustainable, these new agronomic production systems must be economically viable without degrading the soil and other natural resources. This review examines six agronomic factors that collectively define many of the limits and opportunities for harvesting crop residue for biofuel feedstock in the Midwestern United States. The six “limiting factors” are discussed in relationship to economic drivers associated with harvesting corn stover as a potential cellulosic feedstock. The limiting factors include soil organic carbon, wind and water erosion, plant nutrient balance, soil water and temperature dynamics, soil compaction, and off-site environmental impacts. Initial evaluations using the Revised Universal Soil Loss Equation 2.0 (RUSLE2) show that a single factor analysis based on simply meeting tolerable soil loss (T) might indicate stover could be harvested sustainably, but the same analysis based on maintaining soil organic carbon shows the practice to be non-sustainable. Modifying agricultural management to include either annual or perennial cover crops is shown to meet both soil erosion and soil carbon requirements. The importance of achieving high yields and planning in a holistic manner at the landscape scale are also shown to be crucial for balancing limitations and drivers associated with renewable bioenergy production.

Technical Abstract: Advanced biofuels will be developed using cellulosic feedstock rather than grain or oilseed crops that can also be used for food and feed. To be sustainable, these new agronomic production systems must be economically viable without degrading the soil and other natural resources. This review examines six agronomic factors that collectively define many of the limits and opportunities for harvesting crop residue for biofuel feedstock in the Midwestern United States. The six “limiting factors” are discussed in relationship to economic drivers associated with harvesting corn stover as a potential cellulosic feedstock. The limiting factors include soil organic carbon, wind and water erosion, plant nutrient balance, soil water and temperature dynamics, soil compaction, and off-site environmental impacts. Initial evaluations using the Revised Universal Soil Loss Equation 2.0 (RUSLE2) show that a single factor analysis based on simply meeting tolerable soil loss (T) might indicate stover could be harvested sustainably, but the same analysis based on maintaining soil organic carbon shows the practice to be non-sustainable. Modifying agricultural management to include either annual or perennial cover crops is shown to meet both soil erosion and soil carbon requirements. The importance of achieving high yields and planning in a holistic manner at the landscape scale are also shown to be crucial for balancing limitations and drivers associated with renewable bioenergy production.

Last Modified: 11/26/2014
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