Agriculture new study reveals perennial biofuel crops can help fight climate change

Published on March 3rd, 2011 | by Tina Casey

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Biofuel Crops Could Help Fight Climate Change…But It’s Not What You Think

March 3rd, 2011 by  

new study reveals perennial biofuel crops can help fight climate changeThe allure of biofuels rests in their potential for reducing greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles. That’s all well and good, but a team of researchers has discovered an entirely different way in which certain biofuel crops could help fight climate change.  And while their research is preliminary, it does indicate a solution to the dilemma posed by biofuels:  finding a way to make room on the planet for massive new biofuel croplands, without destroying large swaths of natural habitat.

Biofuel Crops and Climate Change

Edible biofuel crops have already fallen out of favor and research is progressing into the use of weedy, non-edible crops and food production waste. The new study has take it up a level. The research team, from Arizona State University, Stanford, and Carnegie Institute for Science looked at the difference between growing perennial biofuel crops and annual crops. Through computer modeling, they found that perennial crops grown in the central U.S. region contributed more water to the atmosphere than annual crops, a process called evapotranspiration. The result was an average lower surface temperature during the growing season, by one degree Celsius – a significant difference in terms of climate modeling.

Sustainable Biofuel Crops

The results of the study offer a new perspective on growing biofuel crops. For starters, it indicates that perennials may alleviate the strain on water resources posed by biofuel crops. It also indicates that perennials could be cultivated as part of a broader regional plan, one ambitious example being the  “Great Green Wall of Africa” proposed to halt desert encroachment. Perennial biofuel croplands also offer more opportunities for combination with wildlife preservation. While the study focused on perennial grasses, other researchers are looking into the production of biofuels from poplars and other woody sources, which raises the potential for creating managed forests that serve biofuel production, habitat preservation and recreation, too.

Image: Miscanthus grass by jame343 on flickr.com. 
 
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About the Author

specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Tina’s articles are reposted frequently on Reuters, Scientific American, and many other sites. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.



  • OMG…WHO is running this ship? One country ALREADY has made a success of non food crops for bio…..the crop is BAMBOO…..groes up to 3 feet per day, “plants” itself…..needs no tending, all you do is harvest…has more cellulose per plant than any food crop……how stupid can a country be? We have total morons running this ship

  • Thats an interesting study and it is shifting the perception of different biofuel feedstocks in a new direction – to the perennial ones.

    Specially when I think about second generation biofuels, there seem to open new chances for the biofuel production. 2.Generation biofuels (cellulose-ethanol) often use the cellulose of a plant and perennials mostly have much more of this stabilizing plant material.

    So maybe we will see a different kind of focus, when it comes to biofuel production in some years.

    Thanks for the article and visionary spirit 🙂

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