For the soil and plant analysis community, development and expansion of biofuels will create many opportunities to provide a wide variety of analytical services. Our objective is to explore potential areas where those services could be marketed to support sustainable development of biofuels. One of the first is to provide soil fertility and plant nutrition information for sustainable feedstock production. Chemical, physical, and biological indicators of soil quality should also be monitored and interpreted using tools such as the soil management assessment framework (SMAF) to ensure soil resources can continue to meet global food, feed, and fiber demands as well as the new demands for biofuels. Feedstock sugar profile information will be needed to help manage conversion processes, calculate economic drivers such as the minimum ethanol selling price (MESP), and determine suitability for other bioproducts. There will also be an increasing need to evaluate a variety of coproducts created by corn (Zea mays) milling, soybean (Glycine max Merr.) processing, and the fledgling lignocellulosic conversion processes. For coproducts produced from wet or dry corn milling and dry grind ethanol production, accurate and efficient analysis and digestibility of fiber components [neutral detergent fiber (NDF), acid detergent fiber (ADF), and total dietary fiber (TDF)], amino acids (lysine, trypotophan, and methionine), fatty acids, and minerals (phosphorus and sulfur) will be needed. In addition, a capacity to accurately and rapidly detect contamination by mycotoxins such as aflatoxin, zearalenone, and fumonisisn or the presence of antibiotics such as penicillin or virginiamycin could potentially be important. For the biodiesel industry, methanol concentrations in crude glycerin must be reduced to meet Food and Drug Administration guidelines and quantified to ensure this coproduct is safe for use in livestock feeds. Finally, monitoring for several processes and coproducts associated with pyrolysis, a thermochemical platform for biomass conversion to bio-oils, biochar, and other products will be needed. We conclude that sustainable development of biofuel industries will have many positive benefits for soils, plant, and animal production systems and the analysts who will provide analytical services for monitoring all aspects of the biofuels industry.

Publication Information
Author: 
Douglas L. Karlen
Brian J. Kerr
Publication Year: 
2012
DOI: 
10.1080/00103624.2012.631410
DOE Information
Bioenergy Category: