Sustainable use of natural resources continues to gain attention, especially in relation to energy and global carbon cycles. Biomass crops may offset fossil fuels and reduce CO2 contributions to greenhouse gases while improving soil and water quality. We review research on biomass crops, with emphasis on their specific characteristics and how their production can affect soil and water quality. Data from regions throughout the world are included, but the focus is primarily on recent research results from biomass crop production in the United States. Research to date shows promising short-term changes in soil and water quality, but responses vary. Short-term studies have demonstrated increases in surface soil organic-matter content, reduction in erosion and nutrient losses in surface runoff. We conclude that while the potential for benefits is present, data are not yet available to determine the long-term changes in soil quality associated with production of biomass crops.
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Vol. 29 • No. 8