“America is addicted to oil” as President George W. Bush acknowledged in his 2006 State of the Union Speech. And, it is not just a US problem, nor is the addiction only to oil. Oil, coal and natural gas are the fossil reserves which power our planet, but now the spotlight is on crop biomass to provide a significant alternative source of energy and materials.
No-till farming and paraquat have a vital role to play in producing enough biomass while sustaining food production and protecting the environment.
At present, biofuels are manufactured from the parts of crops otherwise harvested for food, eg grain. This leads to two problems:
Not enough fuel
Potentially not enough food
The yield of fuel – biodiesel or bioethanol – from the oils or starch found in seeds is relatively low. With the economic and environmental motivation to grow more crops for biofuels, in future, they may take up valuable land that should be used for growing food, especially in poor Third World countries. Already, in Mexico the rising price of corn tortillas, a staple food for many poorer people, has been a problem. This has been due to the higher price of US corn, driven-up by the demand for ethanol.
To address both fuel and food issues, it would be much more attractive to use unharvested parts such as corn stover or wheat straw for biofuel production.