Biotech Updates

New Study Highlights Low Input High Diversity Grassland Perennials as Better Biofuel Feedstocks

January 12, 2007

A research team at the University of Minnesota has released a new study after its publication on the life-cycle accounting assessments of corn ethanol and soybean biodiesel as viable fuel alternatives (Biofuels Supplement 2006 November 24). In the new study, “Low Input High Diversity” (LIHD) plants have been identified as a third major class of biomass sources for biofuel production. (The first two major classes are (a) monoculture crops on like corn, soybean, sweet sorghum, etc, and (b) waste biomass like straw, baggasse, corn stover, etc).

Published in the 2006 December issue of the journal Science, the study shows that biofuels produced from LIHD native grassland perennials provide the following benefits: (1) more usable energy and net energy gain per hectare compared to corn ethanol, (2) net carbon-negative biofuel product (i.e., reduces greenhouse gases), in contrast with corn ethanol and soybean biodiesel which are “carbon-sources” (net increase in greenhouse gases, but lower than fossil fuels), (3) reduction of agricultural inputs (i.e., agrochemicals) compared with food-based biofuels, (4) utilization of abandoned, non-productive lands, thereby avoiding competition for fertile lands normally used for food production. The paper provides quantitative data related to the above benefits.