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Potential Ecological Impacts Of Switchgrass (Panicum Virgatum L.) Biofuel Cultivation In The Central Great Plains, USA

J. Hartman, J. Nippert, Rebecca Orozco, Clint J. Springer
Published 2011 · Environmental Science

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Switchgrass (Panicum virgatum L.) is a broadly adapted warm-season grass species native to most of the central and eastern United States. Switchgrass has been identified as a potential biofuel species because it is a native species that requires minimal management, and has a large potential to sequester carbon underground. Since the 1990’s, switchgrass has been bred to produce cultivars with increased biomass and feedstock quality. This review addresses potential ecological consequences of widespread switchgrass cultivation for biofuel production in the central United States. Specifically, this review address the ecological implications of changing use of marginal and CRP land, impacts on wildlife, potentials for disease and invasions, and changes in soil quality through reductions in erosion, decomposition rates, and carbon sequestrations. A central theme of the review is the utility of maintaining landscape heterogeneity during switchgrass biofuel production. This includes implementing harvest rotations, no till farming, and mixed species composition. If negative ecological consequences of switchgrass cultivation are minimized, biofuel production using this species has economical and environmental benefits.
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