After perusing 17 years of cumulative data, Michigan State University scientists have concluded that “using productive farmland to grow crops for food instead of fuel is more energy efficient.”
According to postdoctoral researcher Ilya Gelfand, “it’s 36 percent more efficient to grow grain for food than for fuel. The ideal is to grow corn for food, then leave half the leftover stalks and leaves on the field for soil conservation and produce cellulosic ethanol with the other half.”
As Science Daily reports in Food Vs. Fuel: Growing Grain for Food is More Energy Efficient, “the scientists compared the energy inputs and outputs of producing corn, soybeans and wheat grown using four systems: conventional tillage, no-till, low chemical input and organic, and then using all harvested plant material for either food or biofuel production. They also looked at energy balances for growing alfalfa, an important forage plant that can be used either for biofuel or for beef cattle feed.
“The analysis showed that using no-till production to grow grain for food was the most energy-efficient system for food or fuel production. Avoiding plowing with no-till management reduces tractor fuel use during production.
“Producing a kilogram of corn for human food provides more energy than converting the corn to either ethanol by processing or to meat by feeding it to animals. Growing alfalfa for biofuel is 60 percent more efficient than using it as cattle feed, according to the study.”
For additional detail concerning the study, see Scientists Say Growing Grain for Food is More Efficient at the Michigan State University website.