Global Use of Agricultural Biomass for Food and Non-Food Purposes: Current Situation and Future Outlook
Paper in proceedings, 2007
Globally, humans currently use roughly 13 petagrams (billion metric tons) dry matter per year of biomass for food (incl. feed), energy and materials purposes. In energy terms, this use corresponds to about 240 exajoules (~5.7 billion metric ton oil eq.), and is almost of the same order of magnitude as the current use of all fossil fuels, in total 390 exajoules. Agricultural biomass from cropland and permanent pasture for food is by far the largest category, accounting for about 85 percent of total human biomass use. Non-food use of agricultural biomass is relatively small, in total around 0.5-1 petagram, and consists mainly of by-products and residues from agriculture and food industry used for energy purposes, and to some extent also materials purposes.
Crops dedicated for materials (e.g. fiber) or energy (e.g. fuels) purposes grown on agricultural land is in comparison almost negligible, reaching about 0.2-0.3 petagrams. However, in the coming decades, production of dedicated energy and materials crops is likely to rise substantially, at a faster rate than conventional food crops. This applies in particular to energy crops, since the potential future demand for bioenergy is much larger than for biomaterials. If stringent (i.e. low CO2 emissions) climate policies are implemented, energy crops production is likely to increase considerably, and may reach orders of magnitude of around ~5 petagrams or more.