Journal article Open Access

Prospects of Bioenergy Cropping Systems for A More Social-Ecologically Sound Bioeconomy

von Cossel, Moritz; Wagner, Moritz; Lask, Jan; Magenau, Elena; Bauerle, Andrea; von Cossel, Viktoria; Warradh-Sagi, Kirsten; Elbersen, Berien; Staritsky, Igor; van Eupen, Michiel; Iqbal, Yasir; Jablonowski, Nicolai David; Happe, Stefan; Fernando, Ana Luisa; Scordia, Danilio; Cosentino, Salvatore Luciano; Wulfmeyer, Volker; Lewandowski, Iris; Winkler, Bastian

The growing bioeconomy will require a greater supply of biomass in the future for both bioenergy and bio-based products. Today, many bioenergy cropping systems (BCS) are suboptimal due to either social-ecological threats or technical limitations. In addition, the competition for land between bioenergy-crop cultivation, food-crop cultivation, and biodiversity conservation is expected to increase as a result of both continuous world population growth and expected severe climate change effects. This study investigates how BCS can become more social-ecologically sustainable in future. It brings together expert opinions from the fields of agronomy, economics, meteorology, and geography. Potential solutions to the following five main requirements for a more holistically sustainable supply of biomass are summarized: (i) bioenergy-crop cultivation should provide a beneficial social-ecological contribution, such as an increase in both biodiversity and landscape aesthetics, (ii) bioenergy crops should be cultivated on marginal agricultural land so as not to compete with food-crop production, (iii) BCS need to be resilient in the face of projected severe climate change effects, (iv) BCS should foster rural development and support the vast number of small-scale family farmers, managing about 80% of agricultural land and natural resources globally, and (v) bioenergy-crop cultivation must be planned and implemented systematically, using holistic approaches. Further research activities and policy incentives should not only consider the economic potential of bioenergy-crop cultivation, but also aspects of biodiversity, soil fertility, and climate change adaptation specific to site conditions and the given social context. This will help to adapt existing agricultural systems in a changing world and foster the development of a more social-ecologically sustainable bioeconomy.

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