How To Choose What To Plant For Biofuel
By: Sarah Zielinski (Smithsonian Magazine) If one of the goals of growing plants for biofuel is to be kinder to the environment than you are by extracting oil from the earth, you wouldn’t want to plant anything that could be harmful to the environment. But how could a plant harm the environment? Well, it could become invasive, outcompeting native species, altering the habitat and driving other species into extinction. The damage from and control of invasive plants already costs the United States more than $34 billion each year, according to one estimate. Bioenergy shouldn’t add to that number.
Recognizing this potential for danger, a group of biologists at the University of Florida recently set out to predict whether a dozen species being considered for biofuel cultivation could become invasive. Their study appears in Biomass and Bioenergy.
The researchers note that the characteristics that make a plant attractive as a biofuel source—high productivity, low input requirements, wide breadth of habitat—overlap with those of non-native invasive species. And when the biologists analyzed a dozen non-native species using an assessment system already used by Australia and New Zealand for more than a decade, only four species (miscantus, plume grass, sugarcane and sweet sorghum) had acceptable scores. Seven other species were rated as likely to become invasive, and the last needed further evaluation. READ MORE Full paper