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Sci Total Environ. 2011 Aug 1;409(17):3215-29. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2011.05.007. Epub 2011 Jun 2.

Effects on aquatic and human health due to large scale bioenergy crop expansion.

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Department of Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering, Michigan State University, 216 Farrall Hall, East Lansing, MI 48824, USA.


In this study, the environmental impacts of large scale bioenergy crops were evaluated using the Soil and Water Assessment Tool (SWAT). Daily pesticide concentration data for a study area consisting of four large watersheds located in Michigan (totaling 53,358 kmĀ²) was estimated over a six year period (2000-2005). Model outputs for atrazine, bromoxynil, glyphosate, metolachlor, pendimethalin, sethoxydim, triflualin, and 2,4-D model output were used to predict the possible long-term implications that large-scale bioenergy crop expansion may have on the bluegill (Lepomis macrochirus) and humans. Threshold toxicity levels were obtained for the bluegill and for human consumption for all pesticides being evaluated through an extensive literature review. Model output was compared to each toxicity level for the suggested exposure time (96-hour for bluegill and 24-hour for humans). The results suggest that traditional intensive row crops such as canola, corn and sorghum may negatively impact aquatic life, and in most cases affect the safe drinking water availability. The continuous corn rotation, the most representative rotation for current agricultural practices for a starch-based ethanol economy, delivers the highest concentrations of glyphosate to the stream. In addition, continuous canola contributed to a concentration of 1.11 ppm of trifluralin, a highly toxic herbicide, which is 8.7 times the 96-hour ecotoxicity of bluegills and 21 times the safe drinking water level. Also during the period of study, continuous corn resulted in the impairment of 541,152 km of stream. However, there is promise with second-generation lignocellulosic bioenergy crops such as switchgrass, which resulted in a 171,667 km reduction in total stream length that exceeds the human threshold criteria, as compared to the base scenario. Results of this study may be useful in determining the suitability of bioenergy crop rotations and aid in decision making regarding the adaptation of large-scale bioenergy cropping systems.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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