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Researchers propose new solution to ensure biofuel plants don't become noxious weeds
Date:3/6/2013

Raising plants for biofuels is many farmers' dream. The lucrative crops grow with a minimal amount of work and can be harvested using existing equipment. However, some plants that are ideal for bioenergy production come with a drawback they can potentially become invasive weeds that can cause billions of dollars in economic damage.

Careful introduction of new species for production of more energy per acre is increasingly critical, as is the evaluation of new or bioengineered plants for agricultural or horticultural uses.

A Virginia Tech researcher, along with another scientist and two attorneys, has authored an innovative article in the journal BioScience that proposes a way to improve and streamline the regulatory methodology for evaluating the invasive potential of plants, especially biofuel feedstocks, that are under consideration for large-scale cultivation.

"We did this analysis to draw attention to state noxious weed lists and to suggest ways to help prevent additional plants from escaping cultivation and potentially becoming noxious or invasive species," says Jacob N. Barney, second author of the journal article. Barney is an assistant professor of plant pathology, physiology, and weed sciences in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Virginia Tech.

Biofuels are of mounting economic and ecological importance, with the federal government calling for production of 36 billion gallons of biofuel by 2022, about 11.3% of all liquid fuel consumption. All of this comes as the Environmental Protection Agency is weighing which biofuel stocks will be incentivized using the renewable fuel standard mandate.

"According to our analysis, current noxious weed laws do not provide adequate protection to prevent invasions in natural areas, and we have a shared responsibility for proper stewardship of these landscapes," said Lauren Quinn a research associate at the
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Contact: Zeke Barlow
bzeke@vt.edu
540-231-5417
Virginia Tech
Source:Eurekalert  

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