Perennial forages as second generation bioenergy crops

Int J Mol Sci. 2008 May;9(5):768-88. doi: 10.3390/ijms9050768. Epub 2008 May 20.

Abstract

The lignocellulose in forage crops represents a second generation of biomass feedstock for conversion into energy-related end products. Some of the most extensively studied species for cellulosic feedstock production include forages such as switchgrass (Panicum virgatum L.), reed canarygrass (Phalaris arundinacea L.), and alfalfa (Medicago sativa L.). An advantage of using forages as bioenergy crops is that farmers are familiar with their management and already have the capacity to grow, harvest, store, and transport them. Forage crops offer additional flexibility in management because they can be used for biomass or forage and the land can be returned to other uses or put into crop rotation. Estimates indicate about 22.3 million ha of cropland, idle cropland, and cropland pasture will be needed for biomass production in 2030. Converting these lands to large scale cellulosic energy farming could push the traditional forage-livestock industry to ever more marginal lands. Furthermore, encouraging bioenergy production from marginal lands could directly compete with forage-livestock production.

Keywords: bioenergy crops; carbon sequestration; cellulosic ethanol; greenhouse gases; switchgrass.