Weathers notes, "There is the real potential for science to inform sustainable cellulosic crop strategies; it's about picking the right plant, or assemblage of plants, for a given landscape and managing crops in a minimally invasive way." No-till farming can slow erosion and enrich soil; cover crops can sequester soil carbon and minimize nutrient run-off; and buffers can support beneficial insects such as pollinators.
But this won't happen without making environmentally sustainable growing practices widely available and establishing incentives to farmers that adopt the techniques. The authors stress that as the technology to make cellulosic biofuels improves, and efforts become commercialized, both industry and legislators must adopt policies that reward sustainable crop production.
This is one of the first times such a large and diverse group of internationally recognized scientists have spoken with one voice on the issue. The 23* authors some of the world's top ecologists, agronomists, conservation biologists and economists encompass diverse backgrounds and professional experiences.
Weathers concludes, "Incentives, such as substantial subsidies for cellulosic ethanol production, could send us hurtling down an environmentally tenuous path. I hope decision makers heed our recommendations. They emerged from a collaborative effort that cut across disciplines and ideologies, and we came to a strong scientific consensus."
|Contact: Lori Quillen|
Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies