Process Management

News 202 views last update:7 Aug 2012

Less greenhouse gas with switchgrass

Corn and soybeans may be the current "go-to" crops for producing ethanol and biodiesel, respectively. But two other crops--switchgrass and hybrid poplar--could steal the show in the future when it comes to curbing greenhouse gases, according to Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and collaborating scientists.

In a study published in the April issue of Ecological Applications, ARS scientist Paul Adler and colleagues compared the net production of carbon dioxide and two other greenhouse gases associated with producing biofuels from several different bioenergy crops.

Switchgrass and hybrid poplar
Together with ARS scientist Stephen Del Grosso of Fort Collins, Colo., and William Parton of Colorado State University, Adler predicted a 40%reduction of greenhouse gas emissions if ethanol and biodiesel from corn-soybean rotations were used instead of gasoline and diesel. This reduction was about two times greater than using ethanol produced from corn grain alone. However, the team predicted that using switchgrass and hybrid poplar would produce nearly a three-fold greater reduction in greenhouse gas emissions compared to corn-soybean rotations.

This research shows that biofuels do indeed have potential to remove greenhouse gases from the atmosphere while helping reduce US reliance on foreign oil, according to Adler.

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