Journal article Open Access
Raising water and energy productivity in agriculture can contribute to reducing the pressure on the limited freshwater availability and non-renewable energy sources. Bioenergy perennial grasses are ecient from a water perspective and can a ord a low-energy cultivation system; however, crop selection and cultivation practices for minimizing land use change and maximizing resource use
eciencies remain a challenging task in view of sustainable bioeconomy development. The present work investigated the soil water e ect on a long-term plantation of Saccharum (Saccharum spontaneum ssp. aegyptiacum), a bioenergy perennial grass holding great promise for semiarid Mediterranean areas. The plantation was in its 13th year following establishment and was subjected to three levels of irrigation for three successive growing seasons. Regression models between crop water use (CWU) and productivity, biomass composition, energy, and water indicators showed di erent prediction curves. Raising CWU (from 230 to 920 mm) enhanced the dry biomass yield (from 14.8 to 30.1 Mg ha-1) and the net energy value (from 257.6 to 511 GJ ha-1). On the same CWU range, unirrigated crops improved the energy eciency (from 99.8 to 58.5 GJ ha1), the energy productivity (from 5.6 to 3.4 Mg GJ-1) and the water productivity (from 114.5 to 56.1 MJ m3) by reducing the water footprint (from 8.7 to 17.8 m3 GJ-1). Biomass composition was also superior in unirrigated crops, as the lower heating value, structural polysaccharides, and the acid detergent lignin were higher,
while ash and soluble compounds were lower. Present findings demonstrated the good yield levels and persistence of Saccharum, improving our knowledge of plant responses to changing soil water availability to maximize energy and conserve natural resources, paving the way for sustainable bioeconomy development in the Mediterranean area.