From: Jeff Mulhollem via Penn State
Published March 10, 2017 01:34 PM

Energy crop production on conservation lands may not boost greenhouse gases

Growing sustainable energy crops without increasing greenhouse gas emissions, may be possible on seasonally wet, environmentally sensitive landscapes, according to researchers who conducted a study on Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) land.

Debasish Saha, postdoctoral scholar in plant sciences, Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences, and colleagues measured the amount of nitrous oxide, a potent greenhouse gas, emanating from plots of biofuels-producing switchgrass — a native perennial grass — and miscanthus — a non-native grass species — growing in an experimental area in eastern central Pennsylvania and compared it to emissions from adjacent, undisturbed CRP acres. The experiment took place in a long-term monitoring site managed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Service.

Nitrous oxide is produced by micro-organisms when soils with excess nitrogen from fertilizer and other sources coincide with a near-saturated soil environment after a storm or snowmelt event. It is mostly emitted from agricultural activities and contributes about 6 percent of the total warming influence on the planet.

An increase of nitrous oxide emissions from CRP land planted with energy crops would undermine the logic of using CRP lands for energy crops production. The transition phase — when energy crops are established — is one of the most sensitive periods because the plants are small and are just establishing their root system. 

Read more at Penn State

Image: Plots of biofuels-producing switchgrass and miscanthus growing in an experimental area on Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) land.

Image Credits: Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences

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