CHAMPAIGN, Ill. Using detailed land analysis, Illinois researchers have found that biofuel crops cultivated on available land could produce up to half of the world's current fuel consumption without affecting food crops or pastureland.
Published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology, the study led by civil and environmental engineering professor Ximing Cai identified land around the globe available to produce grass crops for biofuels, with minimal impact on agriculture or the environment.
Many studies on biofuel crop viability focus on biomass yield, or how productive a crop can be regionally. There has been relatively little research on land availability, one of the key constraints of biofuel development. Of special concern is whether the world could even produce enough biofuel to meet demand without compromising food production.
"The questions we're trying to address are, what kind of land could be used for biofuel crops? If we have land, where is it, and what is the current land cover?" Cai said.
Cai's team assessed land availability from a physical perspective focusing on soil properties, soil quality, land slope, and regional climate. The researchers collected data on soil, topography, climate and current land use from some of the best data sources available, including remote sensing maps.
The critical concept of the Illinois study was that only marginal land would be considered for biofuel crops. Marginal land refers to land with low inherent productivity, that has been abandoned or degraded, or is of low quality for agricultural uses. In focusing on marginal land, the researchers rule out current crop land, pasture land, and forests. They also assume that any biofuel crops would be watered by rainfall and not irrigation, so no water would have to be diverted from agricultural land.
Using fuzzy logic modeling, a technique to address uncertainty and ambiguity in analysis, the res
|Contact: Liz Ahlberg|
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign