High-Resolution Biogeochemical Simulation Identifies Practical Opportunities for Bioenergy Landscape Intensification Across Diverse US Agricultural Regions

Monday, 14 December 2015
Poster Hall (Moscone South)
John Field1, Paul R Adler2, Samuel Evans3, Keith Paustian4, Ernest Marx1 and Mark Easter1, (1)Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO, United States, (2)USDA Newtown Square, Newtown Square, PA, United States, (3)University of California, Berkeley, CA, United States, (4)Colorado State Univ, Fort Collins, CO, United States
The sustainability of biofuel expansion is strongly dependent on the environmental footprint of feedstock production, including both direct impacts within feedstock-producing areas and potential leakage effects due to disruption of existing food, feed, or fiber production. Assessing and minimizing these impacts requires novel methods compared to traditional supply chain lifecycle assessment. When properly validated and applied at appropriate spatial resolutions, biogeochemical process models are useful for simulating how the productivity and soil greenhouse gas fluxes of cultivating both conventional crops and advanced feedstock crops respond across gradients of land quality and management intensity. In this work we use the DayCent model to assess the biogeochemical impacts of agricultural residue collection, establishment of perennial grasses on marginal cropland or conservation easements, and intensification of existing cropping at high spatial resolution across several real-world case study landscapes in diverse US agricultural regions. We integrate the resulting estimates of productivity, soil carbon changes, and nitrous oxide emissions with crop production budgets and lifecycle inventories, and perform a basic optimization to generate landscape cost/GHG frontiers and determine the most practical opportunities for low-impact feedstock provisioning. The optimization is constrained to assess the minimum combined impacts of residue collection, land use change, and intensification of existing agriculture necessary for the landscape to supply a commercial-scale biorefinery while maintaining exiting food, feed, and fiber production levels. These techniques can be used to assess how different feedstock provisioning strategies perform on both economic and environmental criteria, and sensitivity of performance to environmental and land use factors.

The included figure shows an example feedstock cost-GHG mitigation tradeoff frontier for a commercial-scale cellulosic biofuel facility in Kansas.