A new study called Sustainable Bioenergy Production from Marginal Lands in the US Midwest shows how marginal lands deemed unsuitable for food crops can be used to grow grassy and non-woody plants as biomass for alternative energy fuels.

According to a Phys report, faculty members and a Ph.D. student from the Department of Geographical Sciences (Behavioral and Social Sciences) of the University of Maryland, U.S., created the first study of its kind to assess the economic viability of the conversion of marginal lands to second-generation ethanol production.

The authors of the paper, adjunct professor César Izaurralde and Ph.D. candidate Ritvik Sahajpal, believe that the right mix of plant species could increase fuel production without compromising food production. Dr. Izaurralde is also a laboratory fellow at the Joint Global Change Research Institute, a collaboration of the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and UMD.

The Department of Energy’s Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center, the National Science Foundation (NSF) and Michigan State University funded the research, along with support from UMD and the PNNL, funded the research. The academic team focused on 10 Midwestern states, drawing from 20 years of data from MSU’s Long-term Ecological Research Site (LTER).

Farmers and landowners could also benefit from this type of use of marginal land as it would create new revenue streams for them.