Agroecosystems Lab

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Sustainable, environmentally friendly, and cost-effective production of biomass for energy efficient biofuels in California

Economically and environmentally sound biomass production is the first requirement to be met if biomass energy is to play a significant role in the portfolio of renewable energy sources for the 21st   Century. We are directly addressing this first requirement through an interdisciplinary approach based on basic plant sciences, biogeochemical modeling, economic principles and life cycle analyses. We will conduct a set of field experiments on perennial grass and annual biofuel cropping systems that are designed to provide the ideal dataset for 1) the calibration and validation of the biogeochemical model linked to an economic model for sustainability assessments and 2) the development of a specific ”meta-model” for the production of plant biomass for bioenergy in California. This “meta-model” will then be integrated with the life cycle emission (LEM) model. The LEM model will subsequently be employed to compare greenhouse gas emissions from biofuels produced from a broad spectrum of biomass crops cultivated on marginal and prime agricultural lands under different environmental conditions. The proposed interdisciplinary approach will ensure a comprehensive assessment of the long-term potential for biomass production under California conditions that will be energy efficient, environmentally beneficial, sustainable and cost-effective from the farmer’s field to the gas pump.