Canadian Forest Service Publications

Modeling water and soil quality environmental impacts associated with bioenergy crop production and biomass removal in the Midwest USA. 2011. Powers, S.E.; Ascough II, J.C.; Nelson, R.G.; Larocque, G.R. Ecol. Model. 222: 2430-2447.

Year: 2011

Available from: Laurentian Forestry Centre

Catalog ID: 34701

Language: English

CFS Availability: PDF (request by e-mail)

Available from the Journal's Web site.
DOI: 10.1016/j.ecolmodel.2011.02.024

† This site may require a fee.


The removal of corn stover or production of herbaceous crops such as switchgrass (Panicum virgatum) or big bluestem (Andropogon gerardii) as feedstocks for bioenergy purposes has been shown to have significant benefits from an energy and climate change perspective. There is potential, however, to adversely impact water and soil quality, especially in the United States Corn Belt where stover removal predominantly occurs and possibly in other areas with herbaceous energy crops depending upon a number of geo-climatic and economic factors. The overall goal of this research was to provide a thorough and mechanistic understanding of the relationship between stover and herbaceous crop production management practices and resulting range of impacts on soil and water quality, with a focus on eastern Iowa, USA. Comparisons of the production of herbaceous bioenergy crops to continuous corn (Zea mays L.) and cornsoybean (Glycine max L.) rotations on five different soils representative of the region were performed. Indices for total nutrient (nitrogen and phosphorus) loss to surface water and groundwater, total soil loss due to water and wind erosion, and cumulative soil carbon loss were derived to assess long-term sustainability. The Agricultural Policy/Environmental eXtender (APEX) agroecosystem model was used to quantify the sustainability indices and to generate sufficient data to provide a greater understanding of variables that affect water and soil quality than previously possible. The results clearly show the superiority of herbaceous crop production from a soil and water quality perspective. They also show, however, that compared to traditional cropping systems (e.g., corn-soybean rotations with conventional tillage), soil and water quality degradation can be reduced under certain conditions at the same time stover is removed.

Date modified: