University of Illinois researchers determine best regions for bioenergy crops

February 23, 2016 |

In Illinois, new research has identified regions in the United States where bioenergy crops would grow best while minimizing effects on water quantity and quality.

Researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign used detailed models to examine impacts on water quantity and quality in soils that would occur if existing vegetation was replaced by various bioenergy crops in the name of ethanol production.

By using a combination of crop growth, hydrological, carbon and nitrogen cycle models, researchers found that the estimated land suitable for bioenergy grasses–particularly Miscanthus, the most productive bioenergy crop–is limited, despite its relatively high biomass productivity and low water consumption per unit of ethanol.

Specifically, the most suitable regions to grow bioenergy grasses in terms of impact on water (and ultimately ethanol production) are eastern Ohio, eastern Kentucky, eastern Tennessee, and the Northern Atlantic regions. Miscanthus and Cave-in-Rock are less suitable in areas such as Missouri, southern Illinois, and Mississippi River watershed regions of eastern Arkansas.

Finally, the researchers found that bioenergy crops do best in regions with higher precipitation rates. They are more likely to fail in dryer regions with less frequent and predictable precipitation, such as the Great Plains, where environmental conditions limit production of bioenergy grasses. In the Midwest, on the other hand, the grasses are generally able to withstand periodic dry conditions because their roots can grow toward deeper and moister soil.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Tags: ,

Category: Research

Thank you for visting the Digest.