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Fertilizer Use Could Be Making Plant Biofuels Less Ecofriendly

One of the benefits of cellulosic biofuels that has been touted is that they are considered more environmentally friendly and may contribute less to global climate change. However, a new study released last week indicates crops grown for cellulosic biofuels may actually contribute up to higher emissions of nitrous oxide, a greenhouse gas that contributes to global warming.

The study, conducted by the Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center and Michigan State University, found that using nitrogen fertilizer on switchgrass crops sharply increases the amount of nitrous oxide emitted. Switchgrass has been heralded as a significant feedstock for producing cellulosic biofuels, which are derived from grasses, wood or other nonfood portions of plants. It has been believed that the crop was a clean energy alternative for both fossil fuels and corn ethanol. However, the crop's environmental benefit depends on how it's grown.


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