In Thailand, Napier grass is expected to play an important role as an energy resource for future power generation. To accomplish this goal, numerous areas are required for Napier grass plantations. Before introducing crops, the land potential of the country and the impact of crops on the environment should be assessed. The soil and water assessment tool (SWAT) model is very useful in investigating crop impacts and land potential. Unfortunately, the crop growth parameters of Napier grass are yet to be identified and, thus, conducting effective analysis has not been possible. Accordingly, in this study, parameter calibration and SWAT model validation of Napier grass production in Thailand was carried out using datasets from eight sites with 93 samples. Parameter sensitivity analysis was performed prior to parameter calibration, the results of which suggest that the radiation use efficiency and potential harvested index are both highly sensitive. The crop growth parameters were calibrated in order of their sensitivity index ranking, and the final values were obtained by reducing the root mean square error from 10.77 to 1.38 t·ha−1. The validation provides satisfactory results with coefficient of determination of 0.951 and a mean error of 0.321 t·ha−1. Using the developed model and calibrated parameters, local Napier grass dry matter yield can be evaluated accurately. The results reveal that, if only abandoned area in Thailand is used, then Napier grass can provide roughly 33,600–44,900 GWh of annual electricity, and power plant carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions can be reduced by approximately 21.2–28.3 Mt-CO2. The spatial distribution of estimated yield obtained in this work can be further utilized for land suitability analysis to help identify locations for Napier grass plantations, anaerobic digesters, and biogas power plants.
Napier grass is an energy crop that is promising for future power generation. Since Napier grass has never been planted extensively, it is important to understand the impacts of Napier grass plantations on local energetic, environmental, and socioeconomic features. In this study, the soil and water assessment tool (SWAT) model was employed to investigate the impacts of Napier grass plantation on runoff, sediment, and nitrate loads in Songkhla Lake Basin (SLB), southern Thailand. Historical data, collected between 2009 and 2018 from the U-tapao gaging station located in SLB were used to calibrate and validate the model in terms of precipitation, streamflow, and sediment. The simulated precipitation, streamflow, and sediment showed agreement with observed data, with the coefficients of determination being 0.791, 0.900, and 0.997, respectively. Subsequently, the SWAT model was applied to evaluate the impact of land use change from the baseline case to Napier grass plantation cases in abandoned areas with four different nitrogen fertilizer application levels. The results revealed that planting Napier grass decreased the average surface runoff and sediment in the watershed. A multidisciplinary assessment supporting future decision making was conducted using the results obtained from the SWAT model; these showed that Napier grass will provide enhanced benefits to hydrology and water quality when nitrogen fertilizers of 0 and 125 kgN ha−1 were applied. On the other hand, the benefits to the energy supply, farmer’s income, and CO2 reduction were highest when a nitrogen fertilization of 500 kgN ha−1 was applied. Nonetheless, planting Napier grass should be supported since it increases the energy supply and creates jobs while also reducing surface runoff, sediment yield, nitrate load, and CO2 emission.
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