Bioenergy and Agriculture:Promises and Challenges.Bioenergy and Agricultural Research for Development.Policy Brief No 7 of 12 uri icon

abstract

  • Converting agriculture to produce energy as well as food has become an important and well-funded global research goalas petroleum reserves fall and fuel prices rise. But the use of cropbiomass?both grain and other plant parts?as a raw material forbioenergy production may compete with food and feed supplies andremove valuable plant residues that help sustain soil productivityand structure and avoid erosion. Agricultural research can mitigatethese trade-offs by enhancing the biomass traits of dual-purposefood crops, developing new biomass crops for marginal lands wherethere is less competition with food crops, and developing sustainablelivestock management systems that are less dependent on biomassresiduals for feeds. Agronomists will need to define the minimumthresholds of crop residues for sustainable production in particularfarming systems, especially in low-yield rainfed systems (thatproduce less than 5?6 metric tons of grain and straw per hectare),and to establish the level of additional residues that may be removedfor other purposes, including biofuel production. Enhanced rootgrowth offers another avenue for maintaining soil organic matter.Agricultural research can also help improve the energy efficiency ofbiomass crops, enhancing their value as renewable energy sourceswith low net carbon emissions

publication date

  • 2006