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Agrarian Land-Use Optimization for Energy Production in Europe

Project Leader
Seidelberger Emmerich, Project Leader
Duration:
29.09.2010-25.01.2011
Type of Research
Basic Research
Staff
Gufler Klaus, Project Staff
Drapalik Markus, Project Staff
Arnold Nikolaus, Project Staff
BOKU Research Units
Institute of Safety and Risk Sciences
Funded by
Austrian Research Promotion Agency, Sensengasse 1, 1090 Wien, Austria
Abstract
The background of the presented research effort is the fact that on one hand increased biomass production is required not only for alimentation purposes but also for the substitution of fossil and nuclear fuels and PVC plastics, and that on the other hand soil is scarce and increased bioenergy production should not reduce food and feedstock production and has to be sustainable, preserving soil and contributing to climate change mitigation.

The project consortium has identified unused potentials within the crop rotation schemes and in perennial grassrland in many European regions.
A quantitative analysis of unused crop potentials stemming from incomplete crop rotation in Europe as well as of unused yield potentials of perennial grasslands will be the first step. The analysis will be based on CORINE data and will cover all Euopean agricultural regions. Subsequently, identified hot spots with high potential for additional crops will be mapped. Additional crops will be taken into account to the extent that they can be produced without reducing existing food and feedstock crops, if they can be produced without ecologically harmful additional irrigation and mineral fertilization measures, and if they allow also sufficient economic yields. Such additional crops will be seen as potential raw material for bioenergy production. In most cases, these crops will be species mixtures with short cultivation periods (2-4 months within the vegetation period plus eventually winter). If used for biogas production or green bio-refinery proceeding, economically feasible and ecologically sound production will require de-centralized bio-energy production including the use of digestate for soil fertilization.
Existing bioenergy plants fed with maize silage can be supplied by cover crop silage, instead, thus allowing additional food production and unbundling of existing food-fuel competition.
Consequences of such altered land-use solutions on nutrient circulation and on climate shall be assessed in a special work-package.

One work package will be devoted to practical demonstration and result validation. Three case-studies will be undertaken - one in alpine or boreal grassland, one in the corn cultivation belt for cover crops following wheat or rye in fall, and one for mediterranean agricultural systems. Demonstration sites will be selected, land management costs and yields per hectare will be monitored, nitrogen balances will be set up. Consequences of all-year soil coverage on soil will be assessed in these demo areas for different crop mixtures cultivated in different ways (different timing, sowing, harvesting and fertilizing).

Capitalization of research findings will build on a mixture of publication activities in referenced and expert journals, in conference presentations and networking activities. The European seed production research network EUCARPIA will play an active role in this task.

The novel aspect is the targeted use of catch crops and cover crops for energy production. So far, cover crops remain out of consideration in territorial anlyses of biomass potentials for energy use. All across Europe, high potentials for increased cover crop yields achieved by biogas manure management, optimized soil management and optimized seed breeding and mixturing exist but are unused at large.
Keywords
meteorology; risk analysis; risk analysis; agronomy; crop husbandry; renewable energy; renewable resources; Plant nutrition and plant fertilization; soil science; environmental protection; Sustainable development, sustainable economics; Fermentation;
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