It is too early to know for sure what impact the growing of plants for biofuels will have on the agricultural industry. While the short-term monetary gains may well be attractive, questions abound as to what will happen with soil quality and its energy needs. Researchers at Iowa State are looking into this conundrum, and are testing different crops, farming and biofuel production techniques in an effort to gather the necessary data. It appears that one option would be the rotation of crops. See below:

To help farmers begin to understand how collecting biomass from their fields may affect soil fertility, erosion, energy needs, labor and the bottom line, Anex and a team of Iowa State researchers have added bioeconomy elements to I-FARM, a Web tool that helps farmers simulate and plan various changes to their operations.

I-FARM is free and can be found at http://i-farmtools.org. Its focus is on the upper Midwest but weather and soils data from 28 states are accessible from its database.

Inquiring minds want to know: how sustainable is our bioeconomy?

[Source: Iowa State]

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