Title: Modelling soil organic carbon changes under different maize cropping scenarios for cellulosic ethanol in Europe
Citation: BIOENERGY RESEARCH vol. 8 no. 2 p. 537-545
Publisher: SPRINGER
Publication Year: 2015
JRC N°: JRC83895
ISSN: 1939-1234
URI: http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs12155-014-9529-2
DOI: 10.1007/s12155-014-9529-2
Type: Articles in periodicals and books
Abstract: The utilization of crop residues in the production of second generation biofuels has the potential to boost the bioenergy sector without affecting food commodity prices. However, policies leading to large-scale biomass removal should carefully balance the consequences, both environmental and in terms of emissions, on soil organic carbon (SOC) stocks depletion. Using a recently developed simulation platform, SOC changes were estimated at European level (EU + candidate and potential candidate countries) under two scenarios of low (R30) and high (R90) maize stover removal for cellulosic ethanol production (i.e. 30% and 90% of stover removal, respectively). Additionally, mitigation practices for SOC preservation, namely the introduction of a ryegrass cover crop (R90_C) and biodigestate return to soil (R90_B), were explored under the highest rate of stover removal. The results showed that 15.3 to 50.6 Mt yr-1 of stover (dry matter) would be potentially available for ethanol production under the lower and high removal rates considered. However, large-scale exploitation of maize residues will lead to a SOC depletion corresponding to 39.7 – 135.4 Mt CO2 eq. by 2020 (under R30 and R90, respectively) with greater losses in the long-term. In particular, every tonne of C residue converted to bioethanol was predicted to have an additional impact on SOC loss almost ranging from 0.2-0.5 CO2 eq ha-1 yr-1, considering a continuous biofuel scenario by 2050. The mitigation practices evaluated could more than halve SOC losses compared to R90, but not totally offsetting the negative soil C balance. There is a pressing need to design policies at EU level for optimum maize biofuel cultivations that will preserve the current SOC stock or even generate C credits.
JRC Directorate:Sustainable Resources

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