A bioenergy success story: the energy savings implications of the increase in legumes in rotations since 1990
The energy savings achieved by the increase in field peas and lentil production in western Canada between 1990 and 1995 were calculated to be 4.46 PJ (petajoules) per year, equivalent to 1.7 % of the total energy costs of agriculture production in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba, and equivalent to 7.5 % of 1990 nitrogen fertilizer use. A modem ethanol-from-grain industry would have had to produce 380 million litres of ethanol to achieve the same net energy gain. The increase in soybean production hectares in Ontario since 1990 was calculated to be saving 3.92 PJ per year, equivalent to an ethanol industry of 330 million litres. The combined energy savings from these legumes in rotations in Ontario and western Canada were calculated to be 8.38 PJ, equivalent to an ethanol industry of 710 million litres. This is much larger than the existing 31 million L/year Canadian fuel ethanol industry, and equivalent to 17.7 % of present U.S. ethanol production. In addition, the energy costs of producing grain crops after a legume in the rotation were reduced. These reductions in energy costs of grain production would also reduce the overall energy costs of ethanol production.
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