Thursday, September 08, 2005

Tall grasses set to power Europe

Some encouraging news from the BAAS meeting in Dublin this week: Tall grasses set to power Europe. Apparently, some very high yields of miscanthus grass have been reported from trials in Illinois. Their figure of up to 60 tonnes/hectare is at least double the yields previously reported, and at this level it could make a significant contribution to renewable energy generation. I'm always a little suspicious of small-scale field trials - the crop is probably looked after rather better than it could be on an industrial scale, and also the roots can draw moisture and nutrients from the "halo" around the plot. However, even at a production level of 30t/ha, it could be well worthwhile.

Miscanthus has the particular advantages of being a perennial, and not needing much fertiliser, both of which reduce the energy inputs required (some "biofuel" crops require about as much energy input, as you get out at harvest time). It also has a long (and flexible) harvesting season over the winter when farm machinery (and perhaps farmers themselves) are largely idle.

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