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Optimisation of biogas production from maize, sorghum, sugar beet and rye under dry climatic conditions

Project Leader
Amon Thomas, BOKU Project Leader
COMET - K1-Zentren
Type of Research
Applied Research
Project partners
KWS Saat AG, Grimsehlstrasse 31 , D-37555 Einbeck, Germany.
Contact person: Dr. Hinrich Harling;
Function of the Project Partner: Partner
Amon Barbara, Sub Projectleader
Leonhartsberger Christian, Sub Projectleader (bis 31.01.2011)
Wagentristl Helmut, Project Staff
Bauer Alexander, Project Staff
Kaul Hans-Peter, Project Staff
Friedel Jürgen Kurt, Project Staff
Bodiroza Vitomir, Project Staff (bis 30.09.2008)
Ilic Desanka, Project Staff (bis 31.08.2011)
Rinnofner Thomas, Project Staff (bis 30.09.2008)
BOKU Research Units
Department of Sustainable Agricultural Systems
Division of Agricultural Engineering
Division of Organic Farming
Experimental Farm Großenzersdorf
Institute of Agronomy
Funded by
Austrian Research Promotion Agency, Sensengasse 1, 1090 Wien, Austria
Eigenfinanzierung - Department für Nachhaltige Agrarsysteme, Peter Jordan- Strasse 82, 1190 Wien, Austria
KWS seeds inc., Grimsehlstrasse 31, D-37555 Einbeck, Germany
The optimisation of biogas production from energy crops and their integration into sustainable cropping systems is of great importance. Therefore, plant breeding programmes are necessary to detect the maximum potentials of several energy crops like maize, sorghum, sugar beet and rye as renewable energy source. The main criteria for a high methane yield per hectare are dry matter yield and specific methane building capacity. In context of ideal conservation properties and nutrient composition of the energy crops it is also important to investigate the optimal time of harvesting. Due to the effects of global warming, where water availability is more and more a limiting factor, drought resistant varieties of energy crops are also subject of this plant breeding programme. To avoid environmental problems in form of pests, diseases or soil degradation, energy crop production has to be integrated into site-adapted and sustainable crop rotation systems.
In order to fully exploit the available potentials of biogas production, the main aim of this project is to investigate the ideal variety of the energy crops maize, sorghum, sugar beet and rye on the basis of an intensive breeding programme. The breeding focus is to develop high yielding energy crop varieties especially for temperate regions with low rains during summer. Related to an adequate water supply for the main crop of a two-crop system, and consequently a maximum yearly methane yield per hectare, the optimum harvesting time of the pre-crop will be determined.
The overall project is divided into two work packages:
WP 1 contains an intensive breeding programme to determine high methane yielding and drought resistant varieties of the energy crops maize, sorghum, sugar beet, and rye. The breeding programme, which lasts for four years, covers 10 new varieties of each energy crop. These energy crops are tested by the breeding companies KWS Saat, Lochow-Petkus, and AgroMais in the course of running research programmes on four sites in Germany and Austria regarding their biomass building capacity. In the proximate year, four of the most promising varieties are submitted to an intensive testing programme under dry climatic conditions in accordance with their potential of dry matter yield and specific methane building capacity on the Experimental Farm in Groß Enzersdorf. Based on the test results of laboratory trials (full analysis of methane yield, nutrient composition), the Methane Energy Value Model (MEVM), developed in previous research projects especially for maize, will be further developed, improved in its output reliability and estimate accuracy, also for the other energy crops. The optimum variety (constant dry matter yield, conservation properties, optimal harvesting time, and nutrient composition) and an energy index for each energy crop is developed from a board of experts, which contains plant breeders and agricultural engineers.
The 2nd WP investigates the optimum harvesting time of winter-rye (end of flowering stage, milk stage and dough stage) before maize and sorghum, respectively. The maximum biomass and yearly methane yield per hectare in a two-crop system under dry conditions will be investigated. Maize and sorghum will be harvested at the end of the vegetation period. Drought resistant energy crop varieties are selected according to recommendations from WP 1. The methane yield per hectare is calculated from the measured biomass yield of WP 2 and the specific methane yield of the respective energy crop obtained from WP 1.
agronomy; cereal production, cereals; agricultural machines and equipment; crop husbandry; plant protection; plant breeding; seed breeding; agricultural ecology; organic farming; renewable energy; renewable resources; renewable resources; agricultural economics; fermentation technology; agricultural machines and equipment; agricultural construction; agricultural ecology; environmental protection;
biogas production; energy crops; greennhous gases; climate protection; methane energy value model; methane yield; sustainable crop rotation; drought areas; environmental protection;

Bauer, A., Leonhartsberger, Ch., Lyson, D., Hopfner-Sixt, K., Amon, B., Amon, T. (2008): Biogas as a renewable energy source within sustainable biofuels based biorefinery concepts.
[18th International Congress of Chemical and Process Engineering PRES 2008, Prague, Czech Republic, 24.08.2008 - 28.08.2008]

In: Ing. Jan Novosad (Eds.), 18th International Congres of Chemical and Process Engineering 24 - 28 August 2008 Summaries 4 Pres 2008 and System Engineering CHISA 2008, Process Engineering Publisher; ISBN: 978-80-02-02051-6

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