Bioenergy and Invasive Species—Avoiding the “Kudzu Effect”

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New CAST Commentary Examines “A Life-cycle Approach to Low-invasion Potential Bioenergy Production”

CAST Commentary - "A Life-cycle Approach to Low-invasion Potential Bioenergy Production"

Bioenergy is being pursued globally to decrease greenhouse gas emissions and provide a reliable source of renewable energy. To lessen conflicts with existing food/feed production, some bioenergy crops are bred to grow on marginal lands with minimal inputs. Many are concerned that new invasive species may be introduced as bioenergy crops. The authors of this paper encourage preemptive action: “Prevention [is] the best strategy to mitigate future invasions.”

The paper shows that the risk of invasion can most effectively be prevented through a life-cycle approach that adopts appropriate scientific and policy tools at each step in the production process:

  •     from crop selection to field production,
  •     during feedstock transport and storage, and
  •     during decommissioning.

The authors point out that “no single prescription exists for decreasing invasion risk associated with bioenergy crop production.” But this recommended “nested sieve” approach would help producers avoid the "kudzu effect." The CAST Commentary—"A Life-cycle Approach to Low-invasion Potential Bioenergy Production"—provides a clear, comprehensive framework to guide regulatory agencies in the selection and permitting of biofuel feedstocks.

Task Force Authors:
Jacob Barney (Chair), Virginia Tech
Adam Davis, USDA-ARS
Read Porter, Environmental Law Institute
Daniel Simberloff, University of Tennessee

CAST Commentary QTA2016-1 and its companion Ag quickCAST are available online at the CAST website,, along with many of CAST's other scientific publications. All CAST Issue Papers, Commentaries, and Ag quickCASTs are FREE.

CAST is an international consortium of scientific and professional societies, companies, and nonprofit organizations. It assembles, interprets, and communicates credible science-based information regionally, nationally, and internationally to legislators, regulators, policymakers, the media, the private sector, and the public.

Contacts for this Issue Paper:
Jacob Barney--Phone: 540-231-6323; E-mail: jnbarney(at)vt(dot)edu
Kent Schescke--Phone: 515-292-2125, ext. 231; E-mail: kschescke(at)cast-science(dot)org

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