By Kat White, Senior Analyst working on the CCC Bioenergy Review
In our current bioenergy review we are considering questions around sustainability and best use of bioenergy. Given our strong interest, five members of the CCC’s Bioenergy Review team visited the Rothamsted Research Centre for Bioenergy and Climate Change – the UK’s largest agricultural research centre and home to the national willow collection (begun after the First World War) and the BBSRC Sustainable Bioenergy Centre’s Perennial Bioenergy Crops Programme.
The BBSRC Sustainable Bioenergy Centre provides the underpinning research to help develop economically, socially and environmentally sustainable second generation (i.e. derived from non-food crops) biofuels which have a positive impact on climate change and energy security.
Despite the rain (a welcome drink for the crops) we were taken on a tour of the centre’s trial sites for second generation bioenergy crops –short rotation coppice willow, miscanthus and switchgrass. We were shown the results of the ongoing programmes that look at the effect on crop yields of applying nitrogen fertiliser and of varying soil quality and type.
The aim of the Perennial Bioenergy Crops Programme is to support the development of sustainable biofuels by optimising biomass feedstocks from perennial biomass crops whilst maximising energy savings and minimising greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The two crops being studied at Rothamsted and its sister site in Aberystwyth are willow and miscanthus (see photo).
Following the tour, we spent two hours discussing the wide range of research undertaken by the centre’s teams of scientists; in particular soil carbon sequestration, greenhouse gas measurement and monitoring (part of the Defra-sponsored Agriculture UK Greenhouse Gas Platform), and the potential for growing sustainable bioenergy crops both internationally and in the UK.
The CCC’s bioenergy review will be published in late 2011.