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U.S. grasslands losing to biofuel crops
by Staff Writers
Brookings, S.D. (UPI) Feb 20, 2013

disclaimer: image is for illustration purposes only

The rush to increase planting of biofuel feedstock is rapidly killing off unique grasslands and pastures in the central United States, researchers report.

Christopher Wright and Michael Wimberly of South Dakota State University -- analyzing satellite images of five states in the U.S. corn belt -- determined 1.3 million acres of grassland had been replaced by corn and soybean fields between 2006 and 2011, reported.

Demand for both crops has risen with incentives to use them as biofuel resources instead of food, the researchers said.

The loss of native grasslands and pastures was greatest in South Dakota and Iowa, they said, with as much as 5 per cent of pasture being converted to cropland each year. This is having an impact on wildlife, the researchers report, especially on ground-nesting birds that use grasslands and their surrounding wetlands as breeding grounds.

One area of wetlands in South Dakota known as the Prairie Pothole Region is especially at risk from encroaching crop fields, they said.

"Half of North American ducks breed here," Wright said.

Other environmentalists agreed the loss of grasslands was worrisome.

"Exchanging real environmental impacts for the dubious benefits of biofuels is counterproductive," Bill Henwood of the Temperate Grasslands Conservation Initiative in Vancouver, British Columbia, said. "Last year's record drought in the corn belt all but wiped out the crops anyway."


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Avoiding virus dangers in 'domesticating' wild plants for biofuel use
East Lansing MI (SPX) Feb 21, 2013
In our ongoing quest for alternative energy sources, researchers are looking more to plants that grow in the wild for use in biofuels, plants such as switchgrass. However, attempts to "domesticate" wild-growing plants have a downside, as it could make the plants more susceptible to any number of plant viruses. In a presentation at this year's meeting of the American Association for t ... read more

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