US Geological Survey


Date of this Version



Ecological Indicators 60 (2016), pp. 64–70.


U. S. government work.


Cultivating annual row crops in high topographic relief waterway buffers has negative environmental effects and can be environmentally unsustainable. Growing perennial grasses such as switchgrass(Panicum virgatum L.) for biomass (e.g., cellulosic biofuel feedstocks) instead of annual row crops in these high relief waterway buffers can improve local environmental conditions (e.g., reduce soil erosion and improve water quality through lower use of fertilizers and pesticides) and ecosystem services (e.g.,minimize drought and flood impacts on production; improve wildlife habitat, plant vigor, and nitro-gen retention due to post-senescence harvest for cellulosic biofuels; and serve as carbon sinks). The main objectives of this study are to: (1) identify cropland areas with high topographic relief (high runoff potentials) and high switchgrass productivity potential in eastern Nebraska that may be suitable for growing switchgrass, and (2) estimate the total switchgrass production gain from the potential biofuel areas. Results indicate that about 140,000 hectares of waterway buffers in eastern Nebraska are suitable for switch grass development and the total annual estimated switch grass biomass production for these suitable areas is approximately 1.2 million metric tons. The resulting map delineates high topographic relief croplands and provides useful information to land managers and biofuel plant investors to make optimal land use decisions regarding biofuel crop development and ecosystem service optimization in eastern Nebraska.