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Potential for Production of Perennial Biofuel Feedstocks in Conservation Buffers on the Coastal Plain of Georgia, USA

Alisa W. Coffin, Timothy C. Strickland, William F. Anderson, Marshall C. Lamb, Richard R. Lowrance, Coby M. Smith
BioEnergy research 2016 v.9 no.2 pp. 587-600
Cenchrus purpureus, Miscanthus giganteus, Panicum virgatum, agricultural land, biofuels, biomass production, coastal plains, energy, ethanol, feedstocks, fuel production, geographic information systems, grasses, land cover, landscaping, perennials, riparian buffers, runoff, soil, vegetated waterways, Georgia
With global increases in the production of cellulosic biomass for fuel, or “biofuel,” concerns over potential negative effects of using land for biofuel production have promoted attention to concepts of agricultural landscape design that sustainably balance tradeoffs between food, fuel, fiber, and conservation. The Energy Independence Security Act (EISA) of 2007 mandates an increase in advanced biofuels to 21 billion gallons in 2022. The southeastern region of the USA has been identified as a contributor to meeting half of this goal. We used a GIS-based approach to estimate the production and N-removal potential of three perennial biofeedstocks planted as conservation buffers (field borders associated with riparian buffers, and grassed waterways) on the Coastal Plain of Georgia, USA. Land cover, hydrology, elevation, and soils data were used to identify locations within agricultural landscapes that are most susceptible to runoff, erosion, and nutrient loss. We estimated potential annual biomass production from these areas to be: 2.5–3.5 Tg for giant miscanthus (Miscanthus × giganteus), 2–8.6 Tg for “Merkeron” napier grass (Pennisetum purpureum), and 1.9–7.5 Tg for “Alamo” switchgrass (Panicum virgatum). When production strategies were taken into consideration, we estimated total biomass yield of perennial grasses for the Georgia Coastal Plain at 2.2–9.4 Tg year⁻¹. Using published rates of N removal and ethanol conversion, we calculated the amount of potential N removal by these systems as 8100–51,000 Mg year⁻¹ and ethanol fuel production as 778–3296 Ml year⁻¹ (206 to 871 million gal. US).