Ag Policy Blog

Getting Biofuels from Marginal Ground

Chris Clayton
By  Chris Clayton , DTN Ag Policy Editor
Connect with Chris:

A new study in Nature magazine examines the potential for growing cellulosic crops on marginal lands in Midwestern states while mitigating greenhouse-gas emissions.

According to the study, about 27 million acres of marginal crop, pasture or grasslands in the Midwest could produce more than 5.5 billion gallons of ethanol per year, or approximately 25% of the 2022 target for cellulosic biofuels mandated under the Security Independence and Security Act of 2007.

"Understanding the environmental impact of widespread biofuel production is a major unanswered question both in the U.S. and worldwide," said Ilya Gelfand, lead author and MSU postdoctoral researcher. “We estimate that using marginal lands for growing cellulosic biomass crops could provide up to 215 gallons of ethanol per acre with substantial greenhouse gas mitigation.”

P[L1] D[0x0] M[300x250] OOP[F] ADUNIT[] T[]

In doing so, that cellulosic ethanol would create new revenue sources for farmers, no carbon debt or indirect land-use costs associated with corn-based ethanol. A news release on a Michigan State University website states the study placed a lot of emphasis on conservation benefits and importance of mitigating greenhouse-gas emissions.

“With conservation in mind, these marginal lands can be made productive for bioenergy production and, in so doing, contribute to avoid the conflict between food and fuel production,” said Cesar Izaurralde, PNNL soil scientist and University of Maryland adjunct professor.

States examined in the study included Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota and Wisconsin.

The study was led by a team of researchers at Michigan State University. More information can be found at…

A link to a National Public Radio story on the study:…

I can be found on Twitter @ChrisClaytonDTN.

P[L2] D[728x90] M[320x50] OOP[F] ADUNIT[] T[]