Keywords: land use change, miscanthus, corn, soybeans, switchgrass, perennial grass, bioenergy, biofuels, renewable energy, spatial modelling, agent-based modelling, GIS, geographic information systems, energy crops, USA, United States, renewable energy
Bioenergy and land use: a spatial-agent dynamic model of energy crop production in Illinois
To reduce dependence on foreign oil and natural gas and address concerns about climate change, the USA is increasingly developing renewable, domestic energy sources, notably biomass for the production of ethanol and biodiesel. Illinois, as one of the farming states of the Midwest, has significant potential to produce bioenergy crops. Land requirements place these crops in competition with traditional agricultural uses. To understand this interaction, this study examines the spatial and economic conditions for introducing bioenergy crops into the landscape in Illinois, which varies in soil quality and climatic conditions, and therefore in the profitability of various land uses. We use a spatial dynamic model to represent the decisions of individual farmer agents who select crops to increase their income. With this dynamic, evolutionary game approach we study the changing spatial arrangement of four key crops (corn, soybeans, miscanthus and switchgrass) which is influenced by decision rules, demands, prices, subsidies and carbon credits as well as the location of ethanol plants and transportation patterns. With a growing demand for biofuels farmers adjust their priorities towards productive bioenergy crops such as switchgrass and miscanthus which result in new land-use patterns across Illinois.