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Report Asks: Biofuel Crop or Invasive Weed?



April 5, 2012

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - Biofuels are hot new crops around the nation, but a new report urges caution before plowing to seed the fields.

The National Wildlife Federation notes that bioenergy is an important piece of clean, local energy production. However, the report says, crops should be carefully selected and monitored because in many cases they can become noxious weeds if they escape the fields.

Report co-author Aviva Glaser says giant reed is a biofuel being raised in Florida which causes big problems when it grows beyond the crop line.

"It's listed as a noxious weed in a number of states, and it has been known to invade important riparian ecosystems and displace habitat for native species in states across the southern half of the country."

Napiergrass, also called elephant grass, is listed as an invasive plant in Florida, Glaser says, yet BP is developing a cultivated variety to grow all along the Gulf Coast region.

The report recommends that native, non-genetically engineered plants be used for bioenergy production.

Patty Glick also contributed to the report to focus on what can be done to keep the industry moving forward without causing harm and costing taxpayers money. Prevention is the key, she says, and that can be attained through testing before planting.

"We also believe that state and federal governments need to implement rigorous monitoring, as well as early detection and rapid-response protocols. These should be paid for by the bioenergy feedstock producers themselves."

The report also explores the idea of harvesting invasive weeds in areas of infestation to reduce the impact and provide biomass stock at the same time.

The report, "Growing Risk: Addressing the Invasive Potential of Bioenergy Feedstocks," is online at nwf.org/growingrisk.

Deb Courson Smith, Public News Service - FL