US Geological Survey



Date of this Version



2017 The Authors. Global Change Biology Bioenergy Published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd


GCB Bioenergy (2018) 10, 76–83, doi: 10.1111/gcbb.12468


Switchgrass (Panicum virgatum) has been evaluated as one potential source for cellulosic biofuel feedstocks. Planting switchgrass in marginal croplands and waterway buffers can reduce soil erosion, improve water quality, and improve regional ecosystem services (i.e. it serves as a potential carbon sink). In previous studies, we mapped high risk marginal croplands and highly erodible cropland buffers that are potentially suitable for switchgrass development, which would improve ecosystem services and minimally impact food production. In this study, we advance our previous study results and integrate future crop expansion information to develop a switchgrass biofuel potential ensemble map for current and future croplands in eastern Nebraska. The switchgrass biomass productivity and carbon benefits (i.e. NEP: net ecosystem production) for the identified biofuel potential ensemble areas were quantified. The future scenario-based (‘A1B’) land use and land cover map for 2050, the US Geological Survey crop type and Compound Topographic Index (CTI) maps, and long-term (1981– 2010) averaged annual precipitation data were used to identify future crop expansion regions that are suitable for switchgrass development. Results show that 2528 km2 of future crop expansion regions (~3.6% of the study area) are potentially suitable for switchgrass development. The total estimated biofuel potential ensemble area (including cropland buffers, marginal croplands, and future crop expansion regions) is 4232 km2 (~6% of the study area), potentially producing 3.52 million metric tons of switchgrass biomass per year. Converting biofuel ensemble regions to switchgrass leads to potential carbon sinks (the total NEP for biofuel potential areas is 0.45 million metric tons C) and is environmentally sustainable. Results from this study improve our understanding of environmental conditions and ecosystem services of current and future cropland systems in eastern Nebraska and provide useful information to land managers to make land use decisions regarding switchgrass development.