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The Optimality of Using Marginal Land for Bioenergy Crops: Tradeoffs between Food, Fuel, and Environmental Services

  • Adriana M. Valcu-Lisman, Catherine L. Kling and Philip W. Gassman


We assess empirically how agricultural lands should be used to produce the highest valued outputs, which include food, energy, and environmental goods and services. We explore efficiency tradeoffs associated with allocating land between food and bioenergy and use a set of market prices and nonmarket environmental values to value the outputs produced by those crops. We also examine the degree to which using marginal land for energy crops is an approximately optimal rule. Our empirical results for an agricultural watershed in Iowa show that planting energy crops on marginal land is not likely to yield the highest valued output.

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This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution licence (, which permits unrestricted re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Corresponding author

Correspondence: Adriana Valcu-LismanCenter for Agricultural and Rural Development581 Heady Hall518 Farm House LaneAmes, IA 50011-1054 ■ Phone 515.294.8014 ■ Email


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