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1st and 2nd Generation Biofuels

First Generation:

  • Comprised of food crops, starch, sugar, vegetable oils or animal fats
  • Commercially grown and raised
  • Takes acreage away from growing food crops for consumption
  • Have to be planted yearly and only one crop per field
  • Low invasive potential

Second Generation:

  • Produced with non food crops, reeds, grasses, plant stalks
  • Can plant several varieties in the same area to increase production
  • Can be planted in areas that are unsuitable for food crops
  • Have potential to become invasive

Biofuel Traits

  • *C4 photosynthesis
  • *Long canopy duration
  • Perennial
  • *No known pests or diseases
  • *Rapid growth in spring (to outcompete weeds)
  • *Partitions nutrients to below-ground components in the fall
  • *High water-use efficiency
  • Sterility

* traits known to contribute to invasiveness.

What is a C4 plant?

There are three types of photosynthesis: C3, C4, and CAM. C3 photosynthesis is the typical photosynthesis tha most plants use and that everyone learns about in school.

Plants that use C3 photosynthesis are referred to as C# plants; those that use C4 are referred to as C4 plants.  CAM is a mixture of the two types in the same plant.

C4 plants are so called because the CO2 is first incorporated into a 4-carbon compound (vs. a 3-carbon compound in C3 plants).  C4 plants are better adapted to arid conditions because they uses water more efficiently.  They photosynthesize faster than C3 plants under high light intensity and high temperatures.

C4 plants include several thousand species in at least 19 families.  Examples are corn, crabgrass, sugarcane, sorghum, and many summer annual plants.

Biofuels and Invasive Plants

Stand of Giant reed. James H. Miller, USDA Forest Service,
Stand of Giant reed. James H. Miller, USDA Forest Service,

Plants used in the production of biofuels are evolving from food sources to grass and reed sources. This change has the potential of having a negative impact on the environment. Potential grass and reed biofuels were chosen because of their weed-like characteristics. They do not need to be planted every season, can grow in difficult climates and can produce as much as 40 times the amount of biofuel as for example, a corn crop of the same size.

The decision to use first or second generation biofuels can be a difficult one in which the pros and cons of each candidate species are examined. Should you take space away from food production to grow biofuels or should you plant a potentially invasive species to produce more fuel?

Biofuel Reports:

* Biofuel Crops and the Use of Non-Native Species: Mitigating the Risks of Invasion, Global Invasive Species Programme (GISP) (May 2008). [pdf]
* Adding Biofuels to the Invasive Species Fire? S. Raghu et al. (2006) Science 313:1742 [pdf]
* The Weedy Truth about Biofuels. Tim Low and Carol Booth. (2007). Invasive Species Council, Australia. [pdf]
* Biofuels and Invasive Species: Exploring the links between biofuel production systems and invasive species. A background paper prepared for the IUCN workshop on Biofuels and Invasive Species (2009). [pdf]

Biofuels and Invasive Species
Showing 12 Results
CollapseAdding Biofuels to the Invasive Species Fire
Description: "Biofuel crops, particularly using non-native species, must be introduces with an understanding of possible risks to the environment."
Resource Type: Journal Articles
Resource Format: URL
Publisher: AAAS
ExpandAdding Biofuels to the Invasive Species Fire?
ExpandAssessing Biofuel Crop Invasiveness: A Case Study
ExpandBiofuels and Invasive Species: Exploring the links between biofuel production systems and invasive species
ExpandBiofuels Digest. The world's most widely read biofuels daily.
ExpandBiofuels Run the Risk of Becoming Invasive Species
ExpandFlorida Native Plant Society Policy Statement on Arundo Donax
ExpandHistorical Perspective on How and Why Switchgrass was Selected as a “Model” High-Potential Energy Crop
ExpandProduction of Giant Reedgrass for Biofuel
ExpandU.S. Department of Agriculture Report to the Invasive Species Advisory Council
ExpandUnregulated Biofuel Crops Pose Invasive Pest Risk
ExpandWeedy Truth About Biofuels

Arundo donax as a Biofuel

A flower head of Arundo donax. Photo credit: USDA.
A flower head of Arundo donax. Photo credit: USDA.

Giant reed ( Arundo donax ) is a tall perennial cane that grows in damp soils; it is known by many names including Carrizo, Spanish cane, wild cane giant reed and Arundo. It is native to eastern Asia but can grow in California, the Mediterrean and Caribbean. Arundo can grow up to 10 meters, and consumes large amounts of water. Arundo grows in dense groups crowding out other native plants. Arundo is a potential second generation biofuel, because of its fast growth, it is essentially sterile, and can potentially produce more fuel than first generation biofuels.

Arundo donax Fact sheet or species profile (Fire Effects Information System, US Forest Service

Florida Native Plant Society Policy Statement on Arundo donax [pdf]

Production of Giant Reedgrass for Biofuel (Univ. FL, IFAS)

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