Extension of energy crops on surplus agricultural lands: A potentially viable option in developing countries while fossil fuel reserves are diminishing

Research output: Contribution to journalReview ArticleScientificpeer-review

Researchers

Research units

  • Rural Electrification Board (REB)
  • University of Helsinki

Abstract

The rapid depletion of fossil fuel reserves and environmental concerns with their combustion necessitate looking for alternative sources for long term sustainability of the world. These concerns also appear serious in developing countries who are striving for rapid economic growth. The net biomass growing potential on the global land surface is 10 times more than the global food, feed, fiber, and energy demands. This study investigates whether the developing countries have sufficient land resource to meet the projected energy demand towards 2035 by planting energy crops on surplus agricultural land after food and feed production. The annual yields of four commonly grown energy crops specifically jatropha, switchgrass, miscanthus, and willow have been used to make scenarios and estimate land requirements against each scenario. This paper first performs literature reviews on the availability of land resource, past and future trends in land use changes, demand of lands for food production, and potential expansion of croplands. The energy demands towards 2035 are compiled from energy scenarios derived by the International Energy Agency (IEA) and the British Petroleum (BP). This paper also reviewed bio-physiological characteristics of these energy crops to determine whether they are cultivable under tropical climatic conditions in developing regions. This paper found that projected energy demand through 2035 in developing regions could be provided by energy crops grown on a portion of surplus croplands or upgraded grasslands (27% and 22% respectively for miscanthus scenario). Sustainable land management practices, improved agricultural productivity, and adopting suitable energy crops cultivation can potentially supply increasing energy demands.

Details

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)108-119
Number of pages12
JournalRenewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews
Volume29
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2014
MoE publication typeA2 Review article in a scientific journal

    Research areas

  • Energycrop, Land conversion, Surplus land, Yield improvement

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