Research addresses global agricultural intensity improvements
The results of a project undertaken by a team of University of Minnesota and University of Wisconsin researchers show that closing agricultural “yield gaps” around the world could lead to more efficient agricultural production. This could allow more biofuels to be produced without the clearing of additional land. A paper outlining the project, titled “Closing the gap: global potential for increasing biofuel production through agricultural intensification,” has been published in the online research journal Environmental Research Letters.
While the researchers note that U.S. agriculture has undergone a period of rapid intensification since the 1940s via a combination of chemical fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, best management practice techniques, mechanization, irrigation, new seed varieties and genetic engineering, not all regions of the have realized these improvements in agricultural intensity. According to information released by the team, different areas of the globe that share similar water and climate conditions were grouped, allowing researchers to calculate the impacts of improving distribution of high-yielding cultivars, inputs, irrigation and the application of best-in-class management practices for 20 common biofuel crops. Biodiesel feedstocks addressed in the study include castor, coconut, cotton, groundnut, mustard, oil palm, rapeseed, sesame, soybean and sunflower.
Regarding biodiesel, the researchers found that increasing the lowest-yielding biofuel crop production to the median level for 10 common biodiesel crops could translate into 2.25 billion gallons of additional annual production on a global basis. However, the team also inferred the potential yield increases using two other levels of intensity improvements. According to the research paper, 264 million additional gallons of biodiesel could be produced if the bottom 10 percent of cultivated lands, in terms of production level, for each of the 10 crops were intensified to 10th percentile yield levels. The potential increase in production was found to rise to 8.7 billion gallons if production was increased to the 90th percentile.
Submitted by Anonymous on Wed, 2011-09-21 15:37