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Opportunities for Energy Crop Production Based on Subfield Scale Distribution of Profitability

Author

Listed:
  • Ian J. Bonner

    (Biofuels and Renewable Energy Technologies Department, Idaho National Laboratory, Idaho Falls, ID 83415, USA)

  • Kara G. Cafferty

    (Environmental Engineering and Technology Department, Idaho National Laboratory, Idaho Falls, ID 83415, USA)

  • David J. Muth

    (AgSolver, Inc., Ames, IA 50010, USA)

  • Mark D. Tomer

    (National Laboratory for Agriculture and the Environment, United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Agricultural Research Service (ARS), Ames, IA 50011, USA)

  • David E. James

    (National Laboratory for Agriculture and the Environment, United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Agricultural Research Service (ARS), Ames, IA 50011, USA)

  • Sarah A. Porter

    (National Laboratory for Agriculture and the Environment, United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Agricultural Research Service (ARS), Ames, IA 50011, USA)

  • Douglas L. Karlen

    (National Laboratory for Agriculture and the Environment, United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Agricultural Research Service (ARS), Ames, IA 50011, USA)

Abstract

Incorporation of dedicated herbaceous energy crops into row crop landscapes is a promising means to supply an expanding biofuel industry while benefiting soil and water quality and increasing biodiversity. Despite these positive traits, energy crops remain largely unaccepted due to concerns over their practicality and cost of implementation. This paper presents a case study for Hardin County, Iowa, to demonstrate how subfield decision making can be used to target candidate areas for conversion to energy crop production. Estimates of variability in row crop production at a subfield level are used to model the economic performance of corn ( Zea mays L.) grain and the environmental impacts of corn stover collection using the Landscape Environmental Analysis Framework (LEAF). The strategy used in the case study integrates switchgrass ( Panicum virgatum L.) into subfield landscape positions where corn grain is modeled to return a net economic loss. Results show that switchgrass integration has the potential to increase sustainable biomass production from 48% to 99% (depending on the rigor of conservation practices applied to corn stover collection), while also improving field level profitability of corn. Candidate land area is highly sensitive to grain price (0.18 to 0.26 $·kg −1 ) and dependent on the acceptable subfield net loss for corn production (ranging from 0 to −1000 $·ha −1 ) and the ability of switchgrass production to meet or exceed this return. This work presents the case that switchgrass may be economically incorporated into row crop landscapes when management decisions are applied at a subfield scale within field areas modeled to have a negative net profit with current management practices.

Suggested Citation

  • Ian J. Bonner & Kara G. Cafferty & David J. Muth & Mark D. Tomer & David E. James & Sarah A. Porter & Douglas L. Karlen, 2014. "Opportunities for Energy Crop Production Based on Subfield Scale Distribution of Profitability," Energies, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 7(10), pages 1-18, October.
  • Handle: RePEc:gam:jeners:v:7:y:2014:i:10:p:6509-6526:d:41130
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Hendricks, Nathan P. & Sinnathamby, Sumathy & Douglas-Mankin, Kyle & Smith, Aaron & Sumner, Daniel A. & Earnhart, Dietrich H., 2014. "The environmental effects of crop price increases: Nitrogen losses in the U.S. Corn Belt," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 68(3), pages 507-526.
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    Cited by:

    1. Testa, Riccardo & Foderà, Mario & Di Trapani, Anna Maria & Tudisca, Salvatore & Sgroi, Filippo, 2016. "Giant reed as energy crop for Southern Italy: An economic feasibility study," Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, Elsevier, vol. 58(C), pages 558-564.
    2. Lutes, Jennifer & Popp, Michael, 2015. "Switchgrass as an Income Stabilizing Crop for Cow-calf Producers Impacted by Drought," 2015 AAEA & WAEA Joint Annual Meeting, July 26-28, San Francisco, California 205416, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association.
    3. Sahoo, K. & Hawkins, G.L. & Yao, X.A. & Samples, K. & Mani, S., 2016. "GIS-based biomass assessment and supply logistics system for a sustainable biorefinery: A case study with cotton stalks in the Southeastern US," Applied Energy, Elsevier, vol. 182(C), pages 260-273.
    4. Kurucz, Erika & Fári, Miklós G. & Antal, Gabriella & Gabnai, Zoltán & Popp, József & Bai, Attila, 2018. "Opportunities for the production and economics of Virginia fanpetals (Sida hermaphrodita)," Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, Elsevier, vol. 90(C), pages 824-834.
    5. Huang, Shiyang & Hu, Guiping, 2018. "Biomass supply contract pricing and environmental policy analysis: A simulation approach," Energy, Elsevier, vol. 145(C), pages 557-566.

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