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Abstract

Meeting the EU renewable fuel targets for 2020 will require a large increase in bioenergy feedstocks. To date, first generation biofuels have been the major response to meeting these targets. However, second generation biofuels from dedicated energy crops (e.g. miscanthus) or crop residues (e.g. straw) offer potential. Based on an on-farm survey of Farm Business Survey arable farmers in England and aggregated to national levels, we estimate that 5.27 Mt of cereal straw is produced annually on these farm types, of which farmers indicated that they would be willing to sell 2.5 Mt for bioenergy purposes, provided appropriate contractual conditions meet their needs. However, only 555Kt-840Kt would be obtained from straw currently incorporated into the soil. Timeliness of crop operations and benefits to soil were cited as key reasons for incorporating straw. A ‘good price’ represents the key incentive to encourage straw baling. With respect to dedicated energy crops, 81.6% (87.7%) would not consider growing miscanthus (SRC), while respectively, 17.2% (11.9%) would consider growing and 1.2% (0.4%) were currently growing these crops. Assuming 9.29% (average percentage of arable land set-aside between 1996-2005) of their utilised agricultural area to these crops, 89,900 ha (50,700 ha) of miscanthus (SRC) would be grown on English arable farms. Land quality issues, profitability and committing land for a long period of time were cited as both negative and positive reasons for farmer decisions about their level of willingness to grow these crops. Food and fuel policies must increasingly be integrated in order to meet societal goals without generating unintended consequences.

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