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Some bioenergy crops are greener than others

In the Upper Midwest, switchgrass trumps maize at boosting ecological health

GREEN GRASS  Growing switchgrass (left) for biofuels produces more biodiversity and ecological benefits than growing maize (right) does.

Compared with rows of maize, tufts of switchgrass grown for biofuel have hidden perks, a new study finds. The benefits over maize include increased biodiversity, removal of more greenhouse gases from the atmosphere and boosted pest control.

The U.S. government encourages production of bioenergy crops, and maize, or corn, is the most commonly grown. But farmers might consider switchgrass or other prairie grasses instead if they knew of the crops’ strengths, says lead author Douglas Landis, an ecologist at Michigan State University in East Lansing.

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