Last week, University of Maryland faculty members and a Ph.D. student from U of M’s Department of Geographical Sciences published research detailing the possibility of using marginal lands for biodiversity research and alternative fuel production.
The study, titled “Sustainable bioenergy production from marginal lands in the US Midwest”in the January issue of Nature, describes how land deemed unsuitable for food crops – called marginal land – can be used as a source to produce alternative energy fuels by using biomass and grasses grown on that land.
This study is markedly different from other studies in that it presents an estimate for greenhouse gas benefits and lays out an assessment on just how much full-scale potential exists for biomass production from marginal lands.
It’s quite possible that the production of alternative fuel might be increased by specially selecting marginal lands to maximize biomass production.
Non-woody plants and grasses that have grown naturally on unmanaged marginal land can also be used for biomass production, despite the lack of deliberate growth. So, researchers conclude, careful planning and plant species selection would only increase the amount of biomass produced.
By fully utilizing marginal lands, a balance can be struck between ensuring fertile land for crops exists and remains untouched while making sure previously deemed unusable land is allocated for bioenergy production.