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  1. Biofuel crops, including annuals such as maize (Zea mays L.), soybean [Glycine max (L.) Merr.], and canola (Brassica napus L.), as well as high-biomass perennial grasses such as miscanthus (Miscanthus giganteus J.M. Greef & Deuter ex Hodkinson & Renvoiz), are candidates for sustainable alternative energy sources. However, large-scale conversion of croplands to perennial biofuel crops could have substantial impacts on regional water, nutrient, and C cycles due to the longer growing seasons and differences in rooting systems compared with most annual crops. However, due to the limited tools available to nondestructively study the spatiotemporal patterns of root water uptake in situ at field scales, these differences in crop water use are not well known. Geophysical imaging tools such as electrical resistivity (ER) reveal changes in water content in the soil profile. In this study, we demonstrate the use of a novel coupled hydrogeophysical approach with both time domain reflectometry soil water content and ER measurements to compare root water uptake and soil properties of an annual crop rotation with the perennial grass miscanthus, across three growing seasons (2009?2011) in southwest Michigan, USA. We estimated maximum root depths to be between 1.2 and 2.2 m, with the vertical distribution of roots beingmore »notably deeper in 2009 relative to 2010 and 2011, likely due to the drought conditions during that first year. Modeled cumulative ET of both crops was underestimated (2?34%) relative to estimates obtained from soil water drawdown in prior studies but was found to be greater in the perennial grass than the annual crops, despite shallower modeled rooting depths in 2010 and 2011.« less
  2. Free, publicly-accessible full text available July 1, 2023
  3. Efficient irrigation technologies, which seem to promise reduced production costs and water consumption in heavily irrigated areas, may instead be driving increased irrigation use in areas that were not traditionally irrigated. As a result, the total dependence on supplemental irrigation for crop production and revenue is steadily increasing across the contiguous United States. Quantifying this dependence has been hampered by a lack of comprehensive irrigated and dryland yield and harvested area data outside of major irrigated regions, despite the importance and long history of irrigation applications in agriculture. This study used a linear regression model to disaggregate lumped agricultural statistics and estimate average irrigated and dryland yields at the state level for five major row crops: corn, cotton, hay, soybeans, and wheat. For 1945–2015, we quantified crop production, irrigation enhancement revenue, and irrigated and dryland areas in both intensively irrigated and marginally-dependent states, where both irrigated and dryland farming practices are implemented. In 2015, we found that irrigating just the five commodity crops enhanced revenue by ~$7 billion across all states with irrigation. In states with both irrigated and dryland practices, 23% of total produced area relied on irrigation, resulting in 7% more production than from dryland practices. There wasmore »a clear response to increasing biofuel demand, with the addition of more than 3.6 million ha of irrigated corn and soybeans in the last decade in marginally-dependent states. Since 1945, we estimate that yield enhancement due to irrigation has resulted in over $465 billion in increased revenue across the contiguous United States (CONUS). Example applications of this dataset include estimating historical water use, evaluating the effects of environmental policies, developing new resource management strategies, economic risk analyses, and developing tools for farmer decision making.« less
  4. Hydropower has been the leading source of renewable energy across the world, accounting for up to 71% of this supply as of 2016. This capacity was built up in North America and Europe between 1920 and 1970 when thousands of dams were built. Big dams stopped being built in developed nations, because the best sites for dams were already developed and environmental and social concerns made the costs unacceptable. Nowadays, more dams are being removed in North America and Europe than are being built. The hydropower industry moved to building dams in the developing world and since the 1970s, began to build even larger hydropower dams along the Mekong River Basin, the Amazon River Basin, and the Congo River Basin. The same problems are being repeated: disrupting river ecology, deforestation, losing aquatic and terrestrial biodiversity, releasing substantial greenhouse gases, displacing thousands of people, and altering people’s livelihoods plus affecting the food systems, water quality, and agriculture near them. This paper studies the proliferation of large dams in developing countries and the importance of incorporating climate change into considerations of whether to build a dam along with some of the governance and compensation challenges. We also examine the overestimation of benefitsmore »and underestimation of costs along with changes that are needed to address the legitimate social and environmental concerns of people living in areas where dams are planned. Finally, we propose innovative solutions that can move hydropower toward sustainable practices together with solar, wind, and other renewable sources.« less