Ethiopian mustard (Brassica carinata) can produce substantial amounts of aviation fuel and soil carbon benefits when grown as a winter crop in the southeastern US.
The oilseed Ethiopian mustard (Brassica carinata) has been proposed as a supplemental cash crop grown over the winter fallow season in the mild climates of the southeastern US and used as a feedstock for sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) production, with potential co-benefits for soil carbon and other ecosystem services. In this work we used a process-based ecosystem model to establish initial expectations for total regional SAF production potential and associated soil greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions when carianata is integrated into existing annual crop rotations across its frost-tolerant range in Alabama, Florida, and Georgia. We calibrated the DayCent ecosystem model based on carinata field trials in the region, and used it to evaluate the yields, soil carbon, and nitrous oxide emissions when carinata is integrated once ever third winter within those existing crop rotations. We estimate this could produce more than one billion liters of SAF annually and would be approximately neutral in terms of cropland soil GHG emissions. However, the adoption of climate-smart management techniques such as no-till establishment or organic amendments would result in a substantial soil carbon sink, significantly improving the overall environmental footprint of the resulting SAF.
Dr. John Field is a R&D Staff Member in the Bioresource Science & Engineering Group within the Environmental Sciences Division at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. He studies the performance of bioenergy systems at the intersection of ecosystem ecology and life cycle assessment, using process-based ecosystem models to evaluate the effect of biomass feedstock production on ecosystem carbon storage and greenhouse gas emissions. Feedstocks he has studied include switchgrass, corn stover, winter oilseed crops, and wood from trees killed by mountain pine beetle outbreaks in the Rocky Mountains. Much of his work has focused on bioenergy landscape design, including how feedstock production could be targeted on marginal lands to maximize environmental benefits. He has a particular interest in carbon-negative bioenergy systems, including carbon capture and storage technology, and pyrolysis and gasification systems that co-produce biochar. John received his BSc from Case Western Reserve University and his PhD from Colorado State University. He was previously a research scientist at the Colorado State University Natural Resource Ecology Laboratory.
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