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Higher US crop prices trigger little area expansion so marginal land for biofuel crops is limited


  • Swinton, Scott M.
  • Babcock, Bruce A.
  • James, Laura K.
  • Bandaru, Varaprasad


By expanding energy biomass production on marginal lands that are not currently used for crops, food prices increase and indirect climate change effects can be mitigated. Studies of the availability of marginal lands for dedicated bioenergy crops have focused on biophysical land traits, ignoring the human role in decisions to convert marginal land to bioenergy crops. Recent history offers insights about farmer willingness to put non-crop land into crop production. The 2006-09 leap in field crop prices and the attendant 64% gain in typical profitability led to only a 2% increase in crop planted area, mostly in the prairie states. At this rate, a doubling of expected profitability from biomass crops would expand cropland supply by only 3.2%. Yet targets for cellulosic ethanol production in the US Energy Independence and Security Act imply boosting US planted area by 10% or more with perennial biomass crops. Given landowner reluctance to expand crop area with familiar crops in the short run, large scale expansion of the area in dedicated bioenergy crops will likely be difficult and costly to achieve.

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  • Swinton, Scott M. & Babcock, Bruce A. & James, Laura K. & Bandaru, Varaprasad, 2011. "Higher US crop prices trigger little area expansion so marginal land for biofuel crops is limited," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 39(9), pages 5254-5258, September.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:enepol:v:39:y:2011:i:9:p:5254-5258

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. repec:ner:leuven:urn:hdl:123456789/413548 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. Ren, Jie & Campbell, James B. & Shao, Yang, 2016. "Spatial and temporal dimensions of agricultural land use changes, 2001–2012, East-Central Iowa," Agricultural Systems, Elsevier, vol. 148(C), pages 149-158.
    3. Miroslava Rajcaniova & d'Artis Kancs & Pavel Ciaian, 2014. "Bioenergy and global land-use change," Applied Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 46(26), pages 3163-3179, September.
    4. Piroli, Giuseppe & Ciaian, Pavel & Kancs, d'Artis, 2012. "Land use change impacts of biofuels: Near-VAR evidence from the US," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 84(C), pages 98-109.
    5. Kauffman, Nathan S. & Hayes, Dermot J., 2013. "The trade-off between bioenergy and emissions with land constraints," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 54(C), pages 300-310.
    6. Chamberlain, Jim F. & Miller, Shelie A., 2012. "Policy incentives for switchgrass production using valuation of non-market ecosystem services," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 48(C), pages 526-536.
    7. Wilson, P. & Glithero, N.J. & Ramsden, S.J., 2014. "Prospects for dedicated energy crop production and attitudes towards agricultural straw use: The case of livestock farmers," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 74(C), pages 101-110.
    8. Ifft, Jennifer & Rajagopal, Deepak & Ryan, Weldzius, 2016. "The effect of the ethanol mandate on the Conservation Reserve Program," 2016 Annual Meeting, July 31-August 2, 2016, Boston, Massachusetts 236178, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association.
    9. Brown, Jesslyn F. & Pervez, Md Shahriar, 2014. "Merging remote sensing data and national agricultural statistics to model change in irrigated agriculture," Agricultural Systems, Elsevier, vol. 127(C), pages 28-40.
    10. Ribeiro, Barbara E. & Quintanilla, Miguel A., 2015. "Transitions in biofuel technologies: An appraisal of the social impacts of cellulosic ethanol using the Delphi method," Technological Forecasting and Social Change, Elsevier, vol. 92(C), pages 53-68.
    11. Dumortier, Jerome, 2015. "Impact of agronomic uncertainty in biomass production and endogenous commodity prices on cellulosic biofuel feedstock composition," IU SPEA AgEcon Papers 198707, Indiana University, IU School of Public and Environmental Affairs.


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