Perennial grasses are touted as sustainable feedstocks for energy production. Such benefits, however, may be offset if excessive nitrogen (N) fertilization leads to economic and environmental issues. Furthermore, as yields respond to changes in climate, nutrient requirements will change, and thus guidance on minimal N inputs is necessary to ensure sustainable bioenergy production.
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Sustainable production of algae will depend on understanding trade-offs at the energy-water nexus. Algal biofuels promise to improve the environmental sustainability profile of renewable energy along most dimensions. In this assessment of potential US freshwater production, we assumed sustainable production along the carbon dimension by simulating placement of open ponds away from high-carbon-stock lands (forest, grassland, and wetland) and near sources of waste CO 2 .
Practicing agriculture decreases downstream water quality when compared to non-agricultural lands. Agricultural watersheds that also grow perennial biofuel feedstocks can be designed to improve water quality compared to agricultural watersheds without perennials. The question then becomes which conservation practices should be employed and where in the landscape should they be situated to achieve water quality objectives when growing biofuel feedstocks.
Logging and mill residues are currently the largest sources of woody biomass for bioenergy in the US, but short-rotation woody crops (SRWCs) are expected to become a larger contributor to biomass production, primarily on lands marginal for food production. However, there are very few studies on the environmental effects of SRWCs, and most have been conducted at stand rather than at watershed scales.