Environmental, Social & Economic Impacts projects

Interactions between Bioenergy, Carbon Allowances, and Water Quality BMPs: A Case Study of the Lake Bloomington Watershed - Completed

Research in this project analyzed how incentive-based water quality (WQ) programs, energy crop production pressures, and emerging opportunities for agricultural producers to supply carbon sequestration interact to influence producers' management decisions. Using the Lake Bloomington Watershed (LBW) in Central Illinois as the laboratory, the group addressed, at the watershed level, how farmer perspectives, market pressures, current and proposed farm programs, and current and proposed carbon management programs intersect to influence future food and biofuel production decisions and environmental outcomes.

project Highlights

2010 Highlights

Cai’s team found that most farmers will switch to conservation tillage even at low carbon prices, but will not plant grasses even at high carbon prices. Converting less than half the watershed to Miscanthus from corn and soybeans in 1:1 rotation reduces the nitrate load more than if converting the whole watershed to just soybeans. This implies that constructed wetland is a possible solution for biomass harvest and nutrient removal if the environmental value is considered and/or subsidy is provided for wetland construction and operation.

2009 Highlights

Cai’s team showed that the soil and water assessment tool (SWAT) can model Miscanthus growth and its water quality effects. Results showed that the potential N load reductions from Miscanthus depend on the percentage of land use change and fertilizer application rate. Cai’s group also developed a realistic decision analysis model to understand producers' behavior regarding crop choices and biofuel technology adoption. Preliminary results show that farmers start switching to Miscanthus at about $60 per ton; farmers will start planting Miscanthus on marginal land first and only on normal cropland at higher Miscanthus prices and under lower risk situations.



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