Biological Systems Engineering


Date of this Version



Published (as Chapter 1) in GIS Applications in Agriculture, Volume Two: Nutrient Management for Energy Efficiency, ed. David E. Clay & John F. Shanahan (Boca Raton: CRC Press, 2011), pp. 1–17. Copyright © 2011 Taylor & Francis Group LLC. Used by permission.


Energy and climate change are beginning to dominate the global political agenda and will drive policy formation that will shape the future of agriculture. Energy issues threaten national security and economic stability, as well as access to low-cost nutrient inputs for agriculture. Climate change has the potential to cause serious disruption to agricultural productivity. Paradoxically, nutrient use in agriculture to increase crop yields has the potential to negatively impact climate. This chapter will discuss recent and future energy and climate trends, the relationships between agricultural nutrient use efficiency and biofuels, and how global land limitations will shape agriculture in the future. Comparative gross energy yield and nitrogen use efficiency for ethanol production from crop residue, switchgrass, grain sorghum, sweet sorghum, and corn grain is presented, showing small differences in nitrogen use efficiency, but large differences in gross energy yields. In addition to considering the need to increase crop productivity to meet the demands of a growing population and bioenergy, agricultural nutrient use efficiency must be reconsidered with respect to the important energy and climate challenges shaping agriculture today.