U.S. Growers ready and able to grow biomass energy crops

A new non-scientific survey shows that U.S. growers have marginal lands that could be used for energy crops.

Most experts in the biomass energy industry have put the food VS fuel debate behind them, recognizing that the spikes in food prices in 2008 were largely caused by the increased prices in oil and the greater demand for meat in China. Yet those growers who want to produce feedstock for the biomass energy industry still must consider just how much of their arable land they want to devote to growing crops for energy.

Marginal land, which is land that can’t be used to grow food because it has been depleted of nutrients, is often well-suited to growing bionenergy crops. A new study from energy crop company Ceres shows that growers are ready and willing to produce biomass for biopower and advanced biofuels, and have the marginal land to do so.

A survey of U.S. growers showed that 71% of respondents were very interested or interested in growing dedicated energy crops and that 77% of them have under-utilized land on which to establish energy grasses like switchgrass, sorghum and miscanthus.

According to Ceres, the growers said that the ability to diversify their current operations was the most appealing benefit of energy grasses and that they would like to make better use of their marginal land.

In addition, the survey shows that growers were solidly supportive of long-term contracts with customers. Over 70% were very interested or interested in growing under contract, and 48% they would anticipate putting at least half their acreage in long-term contacts. “This is one of the areas where we were interested in learning more about, since reliable feedstock supplies will be critical for new bioenergy facilities to obtain project financing,” said Gary Koppenjan who directs communications and product marketing for Ceres.

Koppenjan added that growers showed little interest in owning a piece of the bioenergy facility they would be supplying and were more interested in incentives for quality and inflation adjustments, or prices linked to energy prices.

The non-scientific survey was completed this summer and was weighted to growers in Southeast United States. The results were consistent with feedback that Ceres has received at grower meetings, conferences and farm shows, Koppenjan said.

    Thomas Mayrand Thomas Mayrand 01/12/10 06:03

    We should think of using human and vegetable organic waste first and continue to use our lands for sustainable uses and growing food. Depleting soils and water for fuel doesn't make sense, especially since there are other options. A field where every fourth row of crops is a solar panel would balance energy and food and water.

    Glen Anderson Glen Anderson 01/12/10 06:03

    Out of control fires are a serious problem during fire season, and harvesting the plants that would otherwise burn in uncontrolled fires for use as biofuel makes a lot of sense.

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