A new study from the American Society of Agronomy throws some cold water on the use of corn stover as a feed stock for cellulosic ethanol. Stover is all the stuff that's left over after corn is harvested: the stalks, leaves, and husks. The problem is that there may not be enough stover available to make a difference. A lot of stover is needed to be spread on the fields to replenish the organic matter in the soil and to control erosion.

If too much of the stover is consumed in the production of fuel, the ability of fields to produce corn would be degraded significantly. This would significantly reduce the sustainability of stover as a feed stock. Of course the advantage of cellulosic ethanol is that it can be produced from a wide variety of organic matter including many plants that can readily grow on land that isn't suitable for growing food crops. Even with those kinds of inputs, however, the world's rate of energy consumption growth is not indefinitely sustainable based on fuels of this type and reductions will be needed.

[Source: American Society of Agronomy]

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