Available Global Marginal Land

The take home is that thereexists one billion hectares of unutilized land that can be plausibly croppedeven without modern and future technological inputs.  This is comforting, and I am sure a lot of itis in tropical soils that are amenable to biochar treatment.

Obviously I think that all suchlands are in fact highly prospective for soil remediation with biochar and theapplication of atmospheric water production. This is the low hanging fruit.

It is surely difficult forreaders to grasp what I have been saying in my blog.  All soils everywhere can be converted to a richhealthy growing media by the addition of around 10% elemental carbon that thenmanages fertilizer release and blocks losses. Almost the entire dry land regions of the globe can be watered through atmosphericharvesting of water.  All this easily supportspopulation densities of a few hundred folks per square mile living in modernmultistory structures.

Those two simple protocols can domost of this.  More specific protocolscan blanket the entire earth with a vibrant living biome supporting humanityeverywhere and supported by humanity. That is why we will need a human population approaching 100 billion toproperly complete the terraforming of Earth.

Study estimates land available for biofuel crops

Photo by 
L. Brian Stauffer

Civil and environmental engineering professor Ximing Cai, left, andgraduate student Xiao Zhang performed a global analysis of marginal land that couldproduce biofuel crops.

1/10/11 | Liz Ahlberg, Physical Sciences Editor | 217-244-1073; eahlberg@illinois.edu

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Using detailed land analysis, Illinois researchers have found that biofuelcrops cultivated on available land could produce up to half of the world’scurrent fuel consumption – without affecting food crops or pastureland.

Published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology, the study led by civil and environmentalengineering professor Ximing Cai identified land around the globe availableto produce grass crops for biofuels, with minimal impact on agriculture or theenvironment.

Many studies on biofuel crop viability focus on biomass yield, or howproductive a crop can be regionally. There has been relatively little researchon land availability, one of the key constraints of biofuel development. Ofspecial concern is whether the world could even produce enough biofuel to meetdemand without compromising food production

“The questions we’re trying to address are, what kind of land could be used forbiofuel crops? If we have land, where is it, and what is the current landcover?” Cai said

Cai’s team assessed land availability from a physical perspective – focusing onsoil properties, soil quality, land slope, and regional climate. Theresearchers collected data on soil, topography, climate and current land usefrom some of the best data sources available, including remote sensing maps.

The critical concept of the Illinoisstudy was that only marginal land would be considered for biofuel crops.Marginal land refers to land with low inherent productivity, that has beenabandoned or degraded, or is of low quality for agricultural uses. In focusingon marginal land, the researchers rule out current crop land, pasture land, andforests. They also assume that any biofuel crops would be watered by rainfalland not irrigation, so no water would have to be diverted from agriculturalland.

Using fuzzy logic modeling, a technique to address uncertainty and ambiguity inanalysis, the researchers considered multiple scenarios for land availability.First, they considered only idle land and vegetation land with marginalproductivity; for the second scenario, they added degraded or low-qualitycropland. For the second scenario, they estimated 702 million hectares of landavailable for second-generation biofuel crops, such as switchgrass ormiscanthus.

The researchers then expanded their sights to marginal grassland. A class ofbiofuel crops called low-impact high-diversity (LIHD) perennial grasses couldproduce bioenergy while maintaining grassland. While they have a lower ethanolyield than grasses such as miscanthus or switchgrass, LIHD grasses have minimalenvironmental impact and are similar to grassland’s natural land cover.

Adding LIHD crops grown on marginal grassland to the marginal cropland estimatefrom earlier scenarios nearly doubled the estimated land area to 1,107 millionhectares globally, even after subtracting possible pasture land – an area thatwould produce 26 to 56 percent of the world’s current liquid fuel consumption.

Next, the team plans to study the possible effect of climate change on land useand availability.

“Based on the historical data, we now have an estimation for current land use,but climate may change in the near future as a result of the increase ingreenhouse gas emissions, which will have effect on the land availability,”said graduate student Xiao Zhang, a co-author of the paper. Former postdoctoralfellow Dingbao Wang, now at the University of Central Florida, alsoco-wrote the paper.

“We hope this will provide a physical basis for future research,” Caisaid. “For example, agricultural economists could use the dataset to do someresearch with the impact of institutions, community acceptance and so on, orsome impact on the market. We want to provide a start so others can use ourresearch data.”

The Energy Biosciences Institute at U. of I. and the NationalScience Foundation supported the study.

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