In sub-Saharan Africa, biofuels have been touted as more sustainable alternatives to fossil fuels, wood and charcoal – but do they help alleviate poverty and improve well-being for farmers and end-users?

The increasing awareness of the many damaging aspects of climate change has prompted research into ways of reducing and reversing the anthropogenic increase in carbon concentrations in the atmosphere. Most emission scenarios stabilizing climate at low levels, such as the 1.5 °C target as outlined by the Paris Agreement, require large-scale deployment of Bio-Energy with Carbon Capture and Storage (BECCS).

This briefing paper reviews evidence on the environmental risks of growing lignocellulosic energy crops for biofuel production. The sustainability of energy crops such as Miscanthus, switchgrass, and short rotation poplar is a growing concern as the European Union (EU) considers ambitious targets for advanced biofuels.

The introduction of the first generation of biofuels made from food crops has been controversial largely due to concerns over competition for land with food crops, thus raising global crop prices and generating induced land-use change (ILUC).

Most climate change mitigation scenarios that are consistent with the 1.5–2 °C target rely on a large-scale contribution from biomass, including advanced (second-generation) biofuels. However, land-based biofuel production has been associated with substantial land-use change emissions. Previous studies show a wide range of emission factors, often hiding the influence of spatial heterogeneity. Here we introduce a spatially explicit method for assessing the supply of advanced biofuels at different emission factors and present the results as emission curves.

This report considers the potential availability of land and crops for biofuel expansion in Southern Africa. It is based on a regional-level review of data and is designed to highlight regional-level opportunities and constraints.

Increasing demand for sustainable energy has led to research and development on the cultivation of diverse plant species for biomass production. To support the research and development required to domesticate and cultivate crops for bioenergy, we developed the Biofuel Ecophysiological Traits and Yields database (BETYdb). BETYdb is a centralized open-access repository that facilitates organization, discovery, and exchange of information about plant traits, crop yields, and ecosystem functions.

Several modelling studies have highlighted the risk that biofuel production on agricultural land can displace existing food and animal feed production. This could indirectly lead to the conversion of forests and other natural land into new cropland to compensate for the displaced production.

Sorghum vegetative tissues are becoming increasingly important for biofuel production. The composition of sorghum stem tissues is influenced by genotype, environment and photoperiod sensitivity, and varies widely between varieties and also between different stem tissues (outer rind vs inner pith).

Original Source

Dedicated biomass crops are required for future bioenergy production. However, the effects of large-scale land use change (LUC) from traditional annual crops, such as corn-soybean rotations to the perennial grasses (PGs) switchgrass and miscanthus on soil microbial community functioning is largely unknown. Specifically, ecologically significant denitrifying communities, which regulate N2O production and consumption in soils, may respond differently to LUC due to differences in carbon (C) and nitrogen (N) inputs between crop types and management systems.

Pages