March 2, 2011
Sugarcane Bioethanol: Environmental Implications
Researchers have long promoted biofuels produced from crop biomass as an environmentally sustainable source of renewable energy. A recent study questions whether the potential climate benefit of sugarcane ethanol is diminished when emissions from land use management are considered.
Scientists examined the sugarcane ethanol production systems to identify sources of greenhouse gas emissions. They found that land use change, fertilization, residue burning, and tillage had the largest impact on greenhouse gas emissions.
In order to maximize greenhouse gas savings, Dr. Cardoso Lisboa and coauthors suggest changes at all stages of the sugarcane production. For example, simultaneous provision of irrigation water and fertilizer would allow the reduction of fertilizer rates in sugarcane production systems. Furthermore, the conversion from pre-harvest burning to no- or minimum-tillage systems with mechanized harvest may better maintain or even increase soil C and N stocks.
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