Champaign, US: Using detailed land analysis, Professor Ximing Cai and his team from University of Illinois, have found that biofuel crops cultivated on available land can produce up to half of the world’s current fuel consumption – without affecting food crops or pastureland. Prof Cai’s study has been published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology.
Prof. Cai’s team assessed land availability from a physical perspective – focusing on soil properties, soil quality, land slope and regional climate. The researchers collected data on soil, topography, climate and current land use from some of the best data sources available, including remote sensing maps.
“The questions we’re trying to address are, what kind of land could be used for biofuel crops? If we have land, where is it and what is the current land cover?” Cai said.
The critical concept of the Illinois study was that only marginal land would be considered for biofuel crops. Marginal land refers to land with low inherent productivity, that has been abandoned or degraded, or is of low quality for agricultural uses. In focusing on marginal land, the researchers rule out current crop land, pasture land and forests. They also assume that any biofuel crops would be watered by rainfall and not irrigation, so no water would have to be diverted from agricultural land.
The Energy Biosciences Institute at University of Illinois and the National Science Foundation supported the study.
Source: University of Illinois