Marginal lands eyed as biofuel source

Jan. 16, 2013 at 5:56 PM

EAST LANSING, Mich., Jan. 16 (UPI) -- Marginal lands considered unsuitable for food crops could be attractive locations for growing biofuel crops to meet a U.S.-mandated target, researchers say.

Such land could produce enough non-grain biofuel to meet about 25 percent of the 2022 target for cellulosic biofuel mandated by the 2007 U.S. Energy Independence and Security Act, they said.

Writing in the journal Nature, Ilya Gelfand of Michigan State University and colleagues said policies meant to encourage biofuel production in the United States and Europe have seen land previously used for food production converted for grain-based ethanol production from crops like corn.

This shift could result in increased carbon dioxide emissions and reductions in the amount of fertile cropland available to meet increasing food demands, the said.

A better solution, they suggest, would be to use marginal lands in the U.S. Midwest unsuitable for food grain crops to grow herbaceous native plants such as switchgrass, which would provide a non-food biomass source while mitigating greenhouse gas emissions.

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