Thursday, October 14, 2010

Environment and Energy Profit from Land Efficient Crops

Expansion of biofuel crops is thought to conflict with land availability, necessity for animal feed, and environmental concerns such as biodiversity and greenhouse gas emissions. While these complications should not and cannot be overlooked, the potential benefits of efficient biofuel production must be seen as both necessary and achievable by society. In an attempt to harmonize the need for such fuels, animal feed, and environmental concern, Dale et al. analyze possible modification to the agricultural industry.

AFEX is a process that has been shown to significantly increase fermentable sugars produced in biofuel production, thereby increasing biofuel land-efficiency. This beneficial treatment can also create a more digestible, more protein rich animal feed. This has been shown with the successful addition of AFEX-treated feed to the diets of dairy cows (Weimer 2003). LPC is a protein rich material created by the extraction of juice from fresh plant material. It can be used for both animal feed and biofuel production, and it has been extensively tested for many years. A final agricultural technology considered by the team is double-cropping. This is a process where farmers plant winter crops, such as grasses or legumes, increasing the quality of the soil by increasing the total biomass. This also prevents weathering during the winter season.

Animal feed in the United States currently requires over 80% of the total crop production in the country. From this, rises the need for more farmland-efficient technologies. Two such technologies, ammonia fiber expansion (AFEX) and leaf protein concentrate (LPC), are analyzed here.

In order to estimate the environmental effects of applying these technologies, the team models carbon and nitrogen dynamics from climate and earth data. Through this model, soil carbon levels, total biomass production, and emissions associated with nitrogen are predicted. Simulations occurred for each crop at nine separate areas in the Midwestern United States for a duration of 60 years. Averaged results from each crop system were used to estimate the environmental effects of each. Also, changes in greenhouse gas emissions from the total production process were determined.

The results of this analysis show a general trend. Applying these crop technologies result in traditional amounts of animal feed production, while significantly increasing biofuel production and successfully reducing greenhouse gas emissions in agricultural processing.

Works Cited:

Biofuels Done Right: Land Efficient Animal Feeds Enable Large Environmental and Energy Benefits

Environmental Science & Technology

Bruce E. Dale*, Bryan D. Bals, Seungdo Kim, and Pragnya Eranki

Biomass Conversion Research Laboratory, Department of Chemical Engineering and Material Science, and Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center, Michigan State University, 3815 Technology Blvd Suite 1045, Lansing, Michigan 48910, United States

No comments:

Post a Comment