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J Exp Bot. 2011 Jun;62(10):3263-71. doi: 10.1093/jxb/err099. Epub 2011 Apr 22.

Meeting the challenge of food and energy security.

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  • 1Department of Plant and Invertebrate Ecology, Centre for Bioenergy and Climate Change, Rothamsted Research, Harpenden, Herts AL5 2JQ, UK.


Growing crops for bioenergy or biofuels is increasingly viewed as conflicting with food production. However, energy use continues to rise and food production requires fuel inputs, which have increased with intensification. Focussing on the question of food or fuel is thus not helpful. The bigger, more pertinent, challenge is how the increasing demands for food and energy can be met in the future, particularly when water and land availability will be limited. Energy crop production systems differ greatly in environmental impact. The use of high-input food crops for liquid transport fuels (first-generation biofuels) needs to be phased out and replaced by the use of crop residues and low-input perennial crops (second/advanced-generation biofuels) with multiple environmental benefits. More research effort is needed to improve yields of biomass crops grown on lower grade land, and maximum value should be extracted through the exploitation of co-products and integrated biorefinery systems. Policy must continually emphasize the changes needed and tie incentives to improved greenhous gas reduction and environmental performance of biofuels.

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