A recent increase in the demand for bio-ethanol has sparked maize production in the USA and other countries across the world. The net energy value (NEV), i.e. the energy output in ethanol and co-products after accounting for energy input requirements in the production chain of ethanol, is a measure of its sustainability. Grain yield of maize, which varies substantially across different climate and soil conditions, greatly impacts the ethanol NEV. The objectives of this study were to determine i) the NEV of ethanol produced from maize grown in four production regions in the southeastern USA and, ii) the specific impact of local soil variability under the same climate conditions within the four regions on the NEV of maize-ethanol. Maize yield was simulated with the Cropping System Model (CSM)-CERES-Maize model for soil and weather conditions, and management practices representing Bulloch, Floyd, Laurens and Mitchell counties, Georgia, USA. The calculation of ethanol NEV took into account the energy inputs and outputs of the entire ethanol production chain, and was based on the crop simulations. There were statistically significant differences in ethanol NEV among the counties, and within counties due to local soil variability. Differences in ethanol NEV among counties were partially due to different transportation distances. Based on the results of this study, it was concluded that maize-ethanol NEV can be increased by accounting for the soil and climate factors in the feedstock production and by locating ethanol-processing facilities in regions with soil and climate conditions that are favorable for ethanol-maize production.
- Crop modeling
- Energy balance