Our nation is increasingly seeking alternatives to fossil fuels, including fuels produced from plant matter. These biofuels could be produced from a variety of herbaceous and woody bioenergy crops, ranging from existing crops like corn, soybean, canola and poplar trees to monocultures or polycultures of perennial grasses and flowers. For example, switchgrass (Panicum virgatum) could be grown in monoculture, while mixed prairies (plantings of native grasses and flowers) could also be used to produce fuels. Current evidence suggests that choices between these different bioenergy cropping systems could change landscape structure and affect ecosystem services. At the scale of a farm field, certain crops may provide better habitat for species that are of conservation concern or provide key services.
As we develop bioenergy cropping systems we need to consider the benefits and risks associated with the mix of crop species we plant. Economics, agronomics and productivity are important factors when selecting crops. While ecosystems should not drive the decision making process, it should be considered. The link below will take you to an extension bulletin that addresses these issues in more detail.