How Can Biomass Energy Use Improve Water Quality

How Can Biomass Energy Use Improve Water Quality

Larn which biofuels require less inputs and strategies to reduce pollution.

Nitrates are most oft detected in groundwater where nitrogen fertilizer is most heavily used; merely exceptions to this design occur.
USGS image.

Table Of Contents

  • Water Quality
  • Nitrogen
  • Phosphorus and sediment

Water Quality

Biofuel crops can help meliorate water quality considering some demand less fertilizer, are perennials, and have a more closed awning. In club for production of agricultural energy crops to be considered sustainable, practices must exist in place to protect water quality. Specifically, not-point source contaminants must be managed to avoid pollution. The dominant non-point source contaminants of surface waters include nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment. Protecting ground and surface waters depends on reducing food loading, increasing nutrient uptake by plants, and limiting water runoff and erosion (Sharpley et al. 2003). These approaches make sense for biomass energy crops as well every bit article food crops.

Nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment are discussed further below. Yous will also acquire how to conceptualize impacts on water quality and quantity from bioenergy crop product and processing through the curriculum unit on Water Resources: Bug & Opportunities in Bioenergy Generation.


Nitrogen requirements vary between potential feedstocks, and nitrate leaching increases with increasing nitrogen application rates (Jaynes et al. 2001). Generally, nitrogen recommendations for corn are well-nigh twice as high as for switchgrass (Rinehart 2006; Teel et al. 2003; Elbersen et al. 2004; Vogel et al. 2002; Vitosh et al. 1995; Blackmer et al. 1997). Hybrid poplar nitrogen recommendations, based on tissue tests, are typically lower than for either corn or switchgrass (Hansen et al. 1993). Diverse constitute mixtures  may require very trivial nitrogen (Tillman et al. 2006).

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Summertime satellite observations of ocean color show large blooms of phytoplankton, represented by ruby and orange, extending from the mouth of the Mississippi River all the way to the Texas coast. When these blooms dice and sink to the bottom, bacterial decomposition strips oxygen from the surrounding water, creating a lethal environment for most marine life. Most studies indicate that fertilizers and runoff from human sources is ane of the major stresses impacting littoral ecosystems.
NASA image.

Phosphorus and sediment

Phosphorus awarding rates are based on soil exam results. In general, crops reply to increasing soil phosphorus concentrations up to a given level, afterwards which further additions of phosphorus have little yield effect merely tin affect the quality of water leaving the field. As phosphorus moves primarily with soil sediment, command of soil erosion and sediment food commitment to surface h2o is critical (Sharpley et al. 2003). Biomass production that depends on removing annual row crop residue, will likely consequence in more sediment movement — and greater phosphorus delivery to surface water — than biomass production from perennial crops like switchgrass or poplar.


  • Blackmer, A.M., R.D. Voss, and A.P. Mallarino. 1997. Nitrogen fertilizer recommendations for corn in Iowa. Pm-1714. Iowa State Univ., Ames, IA.
  • H. Westward. Elbersen, D.Thousand. Christian, N. El Bassam, M. Sauerbeck, East. Alexopoulou, Northward. Sharma, and I. Piscioneri. 2004. A management guide for planting and production of switchgrass as a biomass ingather in Europe. 2nd Globe Conference on Biomass for Energy, Industry and Climate Protection, x-fourteen May 2004, Rome, Italy. Pp. 140 – 142.
  • Hansen, Edward A., Daniel A. Netzer, and David N. Tolsted. 1993. Guidelines For Establishing Poplar in the North Central U.S. USDA Wood Service Research annotation NC-363.
  • Jaynes, D.B., T.S. Colvin, D.L. Karlen, C.A. Cambardella, and D.W. Meek. 2001. Nitrate loss in subsurface drainage as afflicted by nitrogen fertilizer rate. J. Environ. Qual. 30:1305–1314.
  • Rinehart, Lee. 2006. Switchgrass as a bioenergy crop. National Sustainable Agriculture Data Service. ATTRA Publication #IP302
  • Sharpley, A. N., Weld, J. L., Beegle, D. B., Kleinman, P. J. A., Gburek, W. J., Moore, P. A., & Mullins, G. (2003) Evolution of phosphorus indices for food management planning strategies in the United States. Journal of Soil and Water Conservation 58(three):137-151.
  • Teel, A., South. Barnhart, and 1000. Miller. 2003. Management Guide for the Production of Switchgrass for Biomass Fuel in Southern Iowa (PDF / 802 1000). Iowa Land University Extension.
  • Tilman, David, Jason Hill, Clarence Lehman. 2006. Carbon-Negative biofuels from depression-input high-diversity grassland biomass. Science. 314:1598-1600.
  • Vitosh,M.L., J.W. Johnson, andD.B.Mengel. 1995. Tri-country fertilizer recommendations for corn, soybeans, wheat, and alfalfa. Michigan State University Ext. Bull. E-2567.
  • Vogel, One thousand.P., J.J. Brejda, D.T. Walters, and D.R. Buxton. 2002. Switchgrass biomass production in the Midwest Us: Harvest and nitrogen management. Agron. J. 94:413–420.
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  • Rick Cruse, Professor of Agronomy and Director of the Iowa Water Center, Iowa State University
  • Michael Bomford, Kentucky State University

Peer Reviewers

  • Vern Grubinger, Professor, University of Vermont Extension
  • Mike Morris, National Center For Appropriate Applied science (ATTRA)

How Can Biomass Energy Use Improve Water Quality


Originally posted 2022-08-01 13:46:12.

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