Economics of intercropping loblolly pine and switchgrass for bioenergy markets in the southeastern United States
Abstract The main objective of this study was to assess the economics of alley cropping of loblolly pine (Pinus taeda L.) and switchgrass (Panicum virgatum) in the southern United States. Assuming a price range of switchgrass between $15 and $50 Mg-1 and yield of 12 Mg ha-1 year-1, we investigated the effect of switchgrass production on the optimal forest management for loblolly pine stands under different stumpage prices. We considered the following potential scenarios: no competition between species for resources; reduced loblolly pine productivity due to competition with switchgrass; and reduced productivity of both species due to competition for nutrients, water and light. Findings also suggested that the optimal system would depend on the competitive interactions between switchgrass and loblolly pine crops, and the expected prices for each crop. Loblolly pine monoculture would be the most profitable option for landowners compared to intercropping systems with switchgrass below $30 Mg-1. However, when switchgrass prices are C$30 Mg-1, landowners would be financially better off adopting intercropping if competitive interaction between crops were minimal. In order to realize higher economic returns for intercropping system, forest landowners must make some efforts in order to diminish the decline of productivity.