Defra - Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

Science Search

Science and Research Projects

Return to Science Search homepage   Return to Project List

Identifying the causes for limitations in the establishment of perennial biomass energy crops, with a focus on Miscanthus - NF0439

Description
If biomass crops are to make a significant commercial and economic contribution to renewable energy sources in the UK, a very rapid scale-up of plant production systems is required. Government figures suggest that there is a requirement for at least 125,000 ha of energy crops in the UK by 2010. It would appear that these expectations may not be met. To facilitate the use of Miscanthus as a renewable energy source will require the establishment of sufficient volume of high density plantations (10,000 to 40,000 plants per hectare). To ensure that this expectation is achievable requires an ability to produce a large number of plants as economically as possible. To minimise the cost of plant material, as well as maximising the potential to propagate large numbers of plants for the optimum planting time, requires an intensive high throughput propagation system.

The achieve the number of plants required to promote the Miscanthus supply chain demands the development and exploitation of a plant propagule source, i.e., seed banks, shoot rooting (ratooning) or rhizome division. Some approaches face biological problems while others appear not to be currently cost effective, due to high labour costs. A key factor in developing a production strategy will be the need to maintain previously selected desirable plant biomass characters. Open pollinated, seed populations of Miscanthus may show unfavourable increased developmental variability along with depressed yields. Rhizome division is practical, but is likely to be limited by factors linked to rhizome quality and the rate with which plant numbers can be scaled up by simple plant division. Nodal stem cuttings (ratooning) may also be an option, but as yet we have little understanding of the processes that control rooting ability and therefore the economic efficiency of the process.

The aim of this research is to systematically and critically examine the process chain leading to the establishment of biomass energy crops in the UK, in particular those associated with the Miscanthus propagule supply chain. This work will analyse the propagule supply chain and identify the processes that are critical to achieving expected uptake. This will be achieved by drawing on existing information and engaging with the supply chain stakeholders. In particular, we will identify costs linked to various aspects of the supply chain and seek to determine their potential to influence the supply chain process. Part of the analysis will include the organisation of a meeting of key Miscanthus bioenergy stakeholders to facilitate discussion and the sharing of opinions with a view to documenting this information for inclusion in the study report.

The output will be an analysis of the options for reducing Miscanthus propagation costs and identifying constraints and their effects on the economics of producing material for high density plantings. This will lead to the identification of knowledge gaps and areas where further research and development requirements could be undertaken within the project.

This project will benefit Defra by supporting their expectations to reduce carbon emissions through developing an improved understanding of the potential limitations in the take-up of renewable energy sources for the UK. It will also ensure that Defra`s goals to develop and acquire improved Miscanthus germplasm has a route to market, along with identifying potential uptake constraints within the supply chain. The industry will benefit from the development of a new land-based sustainable industry. Stakeholders will be provided with a critical analysis of the state of the supply chain process with identification of the key factors restricting the level and rate of biomass planting. The industry will also benefit from the identification of routes by which plant propagule production costs can be reduced. Consumers will have access to an environmentally friendly sustainable green energy source grown in the UK.
Project Documents
• Final Report : Identifying the causes for limitations in the establishment of perennial biomass energy crops, with a focus on Miscanthus   (322k)
• Final Report - Annex : Identifying the causes for limitations in the establishment of perennial biomass energy crops, with a focus on Miscanthus   (1201k)
• Final Report - Annex : Identifying the causes for limitations in the establishment of perennial biomass energy crops, with a focus on Miscanthus   (688k)
• Final Report - Annex : Identifying the causes for limitations in the establishment of perennial biomass energy crops, with a focus on Miscanthus   (132k)
• Final Report - Annex : Identifying the causes for limitations in the establishment of perennial biomass energy crops, with a focus on Miscanthus   (395k)
• Final Report - Annex : Identifying the causes for limitations in the establishment of perennial biomass energy crops, with a focus on Miscanthus   (314k)
• Summary Report : Identifying the causes for limitations in the establishment of perennial biomass energy crops, with a focus on Miscanthus   (35k)
Time-Scale and Cost
From: 2007

To: 2010

Cost: £160,728
Contractor / Funded Organisations
East Malling Research
Keywords
Agriculture and Climate Change              
Allocated - EMR              
Bioenergy              
Biomass technologies              
Sustainable Farming and Food Science              
Fields of Study
Non-Food Crops