6495 Sustainable Landscape Management Practices for Biofuels Crop Production

Friday, February 17, 2012: 1:30 PM
Room 118 (VCC West Building)
Douglas Karlen , U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Agricultural Research Service, Ames, IA
Land use decisions for producing sustainable bioenergy feedstock supplies must simultaneously be evaluated for their impact on soil quality, water quality, air quality, wildlife habitat, carbon sequestration, rural development, and many other issues. This presentation will emphasize soil protection and improvement as well as stream and water quality issues being addressed through multi-location field research and simulation modeling. These studies are being conducted by the USDA-ARS Renewable Energy Assessment Project (REAP) team in cooperation with university and other scientists associated with the Sun Grant Regional Partnership to develop sustainable feedstock supplies for transportation fuel from energy crops and agricultural crop residues. Four years of field research has shown that harvesting a portion (~1 Mg ha-1) of the stover that may be available from the 34 million hectares of corn land in the U.S. is feasible, but since crop residues are also needed to protect and sustain soil resources, science-based guidelines are essential to ensure this type of harvest occurs in a sustainable manner. The guidelines must ensure that soil resources are sustained, because having good soil quality is essential for protecting streams and water quality by minimizing leaching loss of nitrate nitrogen and runoff losses of sediment and phosphorus. One vision for achieving sustainable supplies of feedstock for conversion into various bioenergy products is to identify the vulnerable landscape positions using techniques developed for the Conservation Effects Assessment Project (CEAP) and then establishing various bioenergy feedstock crops at appropriate locations in each watershed. To facilitate landscape planning, a “residue management tool” has been developed through the Regional Partnership and is currently being tested by various crop consultant and action agency personnel. Through this presentation symposium participants will learn more about a concept that was incorporated into the National Academy of Science report on America’s Energy Future and into a recent report by the Chicago Council for Global Affairs because of its balanced approach for addressing many wicked natural resource issues associated with the development of a sustainable biofuel industry in the U.S. and elsewhere around the globe.