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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: SOIL MANAGEMENT FOR ENHANCED AGRICULTURAL PRODUCTIVITY AND SUSTAINABLE BIOFUEL FEEDSTOCK PRODUCTION Title: Double cropping opportunities for biomass crops in the North Central USA

Authors
item Moore, Kenneth -
item Karlen, Douglas

Submitted to: Biofuels
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: September 23, 2013
Publication Date: January 2, 2014
Citation: Moore, K.J., Karlen, D.L. 2014. Double cropping opportunities for biomass crops in the North Central USA. Biofuels. 4:605-615.

Interpretive Summary: Double cropping, a farming practice that involves producing two crops in succession on the same land within a single growing season, is one strategy for increasing the amount of plant material availabale for producing bioenergy or other bio-products. Currently, the use of double cropping in the northern portions of the U.S. Corn/Soybean Belt is limited by growing season length and a general focus on growing crops grain production. Opportunities for developing and using biomass crops (plant species grown for the vegetative rather than reproductive components) to support emerging bioenergy and bio-product industries in the North Central U.S. are explored. We conclude that double cropping with various plant species could have many positive economic, environmental, and social impacts including increased rural development opportunities. This information will be useful for scientists, conservationists, and those associated with the emerging bioenergy and bio-product industries throughout the region.

Technical Abstract: Increased biomass crop production is essential for the development of sustainablae bioenergy and bio-product industries that will strengthen rural economies and increase employment in sectors ranging from farming to feedstock transportation to plant construction and operation. Double cropping, a farming practice that involves producing two crops in succession on the same land within a single growing season, is one strategy that needs to be examined for its potential to help meet these goals. Traditionally, double cropping has been limited in the northern part of the Corn/Soybean Belt because the growing season is shorter than in more southern locations and the focus has been on producing grain. The establishment of biofuel and bio-product industries that can efficiently utilize lignocellulosic feedstocks provides an opportunity for extending this farming practice further north because crops grown for biomass do not need to complete their lifecycle and produce seed. In addition to enhanced income potential for producers, investment opportunities, and jobs, there are many potential environmental benefits associated with developing this practice. Double-crop systems can provide nearly year-round ground cover, thus greatly reducing exposure of the soil to water and wind erosion. Increasing the number of crops grown during a season can reduce weather-related risk and offers some flexibility in management in response to weather and potentially to market factors. To be successful, double-crop systems have to provide a return that is commensurate with current single-crop, grain production systems. However, successful development of double-cropping systems for more northern latitudes could have significant economic, environmental, and social benefits by rediversifying landscapes and helping to mitigate many negative environmental impacts of current agricultural practices. Double cropping with biomass crops could also facilitate further development of bioenergy and bio-product industries by providing the increased feedstock supplies that will be required as markets for lignocellulosic biomass continue to develop and be adopted.

Last Modified: 11/22/2014
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