The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is funding a $738,000 three-year study by South Dakota State University looking at possible environmental changes that could accompany a shift toward new biofuel crops such as perennial grasses.
The three-year study will focus on land use in North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, western Minnesota and northern Iowa. “If you look at one of the maps by the Renewable Fuels Association, the hotspot of the activity is in this area,” said professor Geoff Henebry, a senior scientist in the Geographic Information Science Center of Excellence (GIScCE) at SDSU.
DSU research scientist Michael Wimberly said, “It’s a very complex system. We do not anticipate having widespread changes throughout the region. Because biofuels feedstocks are bulky, you want to minimize transportation costs. So it makes the most sense to be growing crops around ethanol plants. There are certainly lots of ethanol plants built, under construction, and planned. So you can imagine ‘patchy’ kinds of changes.”
Preliminary results should be available in 12 to 24 months.
In the SDSU photo – scientists Henebry (left) and Wimberly are examining possible environmental changes that could accompany shifts in land used for biofuels crops.