Kemmerling, L. R., S. R. Griffin, and N. M. Haddad. 2021. Optimizing pollinator conservation and crop yield among perennial bioenergy crops. GCB Bioenergy 13:1030-1042.

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In order to both combat the decline of biodiversity and produce food, fuel, and fiber for a growing human population, current agricultural landscapes must transition into diversified, multifunctional systems. Perennial cellulosic biofuel crops have potential to meet both of these challenges, acting as multifunctional systems that can enhance biodiversity. What is not well understood, and what we test here, are the trade-offs among different perennial crops in their performance as biofuels and in biodiversity conservation. Working in an established bioenergy experiment with four native, perennial, cellulosic biofuel crop varieties—ranging from monoculture to diverse restoration planting—we tested the effect of biofuel crop management on flower communities, pollinator communities, and crop yield. The greatest abundance and diversity of pollinators and flowers were in treatments that were successional (unmanaged), followed by restored prairie (seeded mix of native grasses and forbs), switchgrass, and a mix of native grasses. However, biofuel crop yield was approximately the inverse, with native grasses having the highest yield, followed by switchgrass and prairie, then successional treatments. Restored prairie was the optimal biofuel crop when both pollinator conservation and crop yield are valued similarly. We add to mounting evidence that policy is needed to create sustainable markets that value the multifunctionality of perennial biofuel systems in order to achieve greater ecosystem services from agricultural landscapes.

DOI: 10.1111/gcbb.12826

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Associated Treatment Areas:

  • G5 Switchgrass
  • G7 Native Grasses
  • G9 Early Successional
  • G10 Restored Prairie

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