Biofuels are fuels derived from biomass through various chemical and biological processes. Common biofuel types include bioethanol, biogas, biodiesel and syngas. Depending upon the feedstock and conversion technology used for synthesis of biofuel, it can be differentiate into first generation (produced directly from food crops), second generation (derived from feedstock), third generation biofuel (derived from algae).
Biomass resources provided energy, which is about 14% of the worldwide primary energy supply, which is equivalent to 38% of total energy supply of developing countries. Pakistan is facing severe energy crisis. Pakistan faces a gap of 4500MW between demand and supply. Renewable energy is very important for sustainable energy future of Pakistan.
Issues associated with biomass production includes impacts of biofuel on environment are land use changes, atmospheric pollutant emission, water use and pollution, monoculture, biodiversity loss, soil erosion. Growing demands for biofuel means that cultivation required more land. It includes deforestation to increase agricultural land or to get biomass from woody plantation.
Biofuel production competes with food uses of agricultural sector output and consequently derives up prices, reduce food security.
Solutions of these issues may include Biofuels production by use of barren land which is of no use for cultivation. Many scientists are trying to use the barren land for useful purpose. As for as saline land and drought areas are concerned, salt and drought resistance species can be used for biomass production.
The salt effected area of the world is about 955 million ha, of which about 6.3 million ha are in Pakistan. Approximately 23 and 37 per cent of the cultivated land is saline and saline-sodic/sodic, and a ratio of about 40:60 between these two categories of salt-affected soils indicates the greater severity of the sodicity problem. If this soil is used then there will be no issue of food security and land use changes.
There are many salt and drought tolerant species, among these grasses are preferable, because grasses have high productivity, required low agricultural inputs, have positive environmental impacts, easy to process and do not compete with food. By these practices, issues associated with biofuel production can be reduced because there are many advantages of grasses production.
Grasses are bioenergy crops for biomass production as well as reclamation of saline soils for instance Kallar grass. Grasses have lignocelluloses biomass, which can be produced at low cost .Biofuels from grass biomass is environmentally attractive with 94% less GHG emission as compared to gasoline .Grasses are non food crops, they do not reduce food security. Grasses are cheapest source of bioethanol production with minimum or zero maintenance cost.
Grasses include karnal or kallar grass, Orchard grass, barmuda grass, Rhodes grass, para grass, wheat grasses, sudan grass, rye grass are suitable for this purpose. Sesbania can be used as a source of biomass.
This article is collectively authored by Maria Batool, Dr. Imran khan, Dr. M. Umar Chattha, M. Umair Hassan. Department of Agronomy, University Of Agriculture Faisalabad.