The researchers used a supercomputer to identify and model biomass production that could grow enough feedstock to support a local biorefinery with a capacity of at least 24 million gallons per year. The final tally of 5.5 billion gallons of ethanol represents about 25 percent of Congress’ 2022 cellulosic biofuels target, says Phil Robertson, professor of crop, soil, and microbial sciences at Michigan State University. (Credit: “old tractor” via Shutterstock)

EARTH & ENVIRONMENT – Posted by Layne Cameron-Michigan State on Thursday, January 17, 2013 12:59

Reject fields could produce lots of biofuel

MICHIGAN STATE (US) — Land unfit for food crops can be prime real estate for biofuel plants—and could produce an estimated 5.5 billion gallons of ethanol in the Midwest alone.

In the current issue of Nature, a team of researchers shows that these “marginal” lands represent a huge untapped resource to grow mixed species cellulosic biomass.

“Understanding the environmental impact of widespread biofuel production is a major unanswered question both in the US and worldwide,” says Ilya Gelfand, lead author and postdoctoral researcher at Michigan State University.

“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.”

The notion of making better use of marginal land has been around for nearly 15 years. However, this is the first study to provide an estimate for the greenhouse gas benefits as well as an assessment of the total potential for these lands to produce significant amounts of biomass, he adds.

Read more: Futurity – Reject fields could produce lots of biofuel.

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