BioEnergy Research

, Volume 9, Issue 2, pp 587–600 | Cite as

Potential for Production of Perennial Biofuel Feedstocks in Conservation Buffers on the Coastal Plain of Georgia, USA

  • Alisa W. CoffinEmail author
  • Timothy C. Strickland
  • William F. Anderson
  • Marshall C. Lamb
  • Richard R. Lowrance
  • Coby M. Smith


With global increases in the production of cellulosic biomass for fuel, or “biofuel,” concerns over potential negative effects of using land for biofuel production have promoted attention to concepts of agricultural landscape design that sustainably balance tradeoffs between food, fuel, fiber, and conservation. The Energy Independence Security Act (EISA) of 2007 mandates an increase in advanced biofuels to 21 billion gallons in 2022. The southeastern region of the USA has been identified as a contributor to meeting half of this goal. We used a GIS-based approach to estimate the production and N-removal potential of three perennial biofeedstocks planted as conservation buffers (field borders associated with riparian buffers, and grassed waterways) on the Coastal Plain of Georgia, USA. Land cover, hydrology, elevation, and soils data were used to identify locations within agricultural landscapes that are most susceptible to runoff, erosion, and nutrient loss. We estimated potential annual biomass production from these areas to be: 2.5–3.5 Tg for giant miscanthus (Miscanthus × giganteus), 2–8.6 Tg for “Merkeron” napier grass (Pennisetum purpureum), and 1.9–7.5 Tg for “Alamo” switchgrass (Panicum virgatum). When production strategies were taken into consideration, we estimated total biomass yield of perennial grasses for the Georgia Coastal Plain at 2.2–9.4 Tg year−1. Using published rates of N removal and ethanol conversion, we calculated the amount of potential N removal by these systems as 8100–51,000 Mg year−1 and ethanol fuel production as 778–3296 Ml year−1 (206 to 871 million gal. US).


Biofuel Bioenergy feedstocks Landscape analysis Miscanthus × giganteus Pennisetum purpureum Panicum virgatum Georgia Coastal Plain 



Area of interest


Conservation waterway


Energy independence and security act of 2007


Conservation reserve program


Greenhouse gas


Geographic information system


Gridded soil survey geographic data






National agriculture imagery program


National cropland data layer


National elevation dataset


National land cover database


Natural resources conservation service


Meters above mean sea level


Major land resource area




Riparian buffer


US Environmental Protection Agency


United States of America


United States Department of Agriculture


United States Geologic Survey



We gratefully acknowledge Lewis Taylor Farms, Inc., of Tifton, GA, a USDA-ARS cooperator producer, for providing areas for experimental field work. New Energy Farms of Tifton, GA, provided plant material for analysis. We are also very grateful for the efforts of numerous technicians who contributed to the collection and processing of field data, including Lorine Lewis, Thoris Green, Rex Blanchett, DeeAnn Webb, Bobby Shiver, John Davis, Freddie Cheek, Tony Howell, Jesse Childre, Bobby-Ray Hagler, Andrew Stinson, Mason Dean, Lee Kirby, Alex Seigler, Matthew Brinckmann, Turner Hughes, Erin Boettger, and Tanner Connell. Finally, we appreciate the efforts of two anonymous reviewers who commented on this manuscript. This research is a contribution of the USDA-ARS Gulf Atlantic Coastal Plain Long-Term Agroecosystem Research Site.

Supplementary material

12155_2015_9700_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (25 kb)
ESM 1 (PDF 24 kb)


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.USDA-ARS, Southeast Watershed Research LaboratoryTiftonUSA
  2. 2.USDA-ARS, Crop Genetics and Breeding ResearchTiftonUSA
  3. 3.USDA-ARS, National Peanut Research LaboratoryDawsonUSA
  4. 4.US-EPA, National Risk Management Research LaboratoryAdaUSA

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