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13 Aug 2009: Non-food Biofuel Sources
Pose Risks as Runaway Weeds, Panel Says

A federal advisory panel has warned that some grasses and weed-like plants now being considered as possible sources of biofuel pose the risk of spreading widely and causing major economic damage as invasive species. The Invasive Species Advisory Committee said that the very properties that make the plants appealing candidates for biofuel production — they can grow year-round and need less water, fertilizer, and agricultural land — also make them prime candidates to become harmful invasive species, such as the runaway vine, kudzu. Among the biofuel species with potential to spread out of control are a giant reed, Arundo donax, which grows in clumps up to 20 feet tall and is classified as a noxious weed in California and Texas, and plants such as miscanthus and reed canary grass. The panel said that some potential sources of biofuel, such as switchgrass, posed far less danger and recommended that agencies carefully study possible biofuel species before allowing their cultivation in different regions.

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