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Deliverable D4.6 – Long-term performance of perennial industrial crops grown on marginal land

Von Cossel, M.; Scordia, D.; Cosentino, S. L.; Fernando, A. L.; Sanz, M.; Ciria, P.; Barro Pineiro, R.; Ciria Ramos, C. S.; Lazdina, D.; Celma, S.; Dumins, K.; Zusevica, A.; Elbersen, W.; Trindade, L. M.; Al Hassan, M.; Baraniecki, P.; Gabrielle, B.; Lamy, I.; Di Mapeou, E.; Prysiazhniuk, O; Maliarenko, O.; Krzyżaniak, M.; Stolarski, M.; Lewandowski, I.; Alexopoulou, E.


The objective of this task was to maintain existing field trials on perennial crops already established on marginal agricultural land to collect long-term data of utmost importance for industrial development perspective plans in marginal areas. The long-term field trials included the following perennial herbaceous and woody crops: birch, black alder, bulbous canary grass, cardoon, elephant grass, giant reed, miscanthus, pine, poplar, reed canary grass, ricegrass, robinia, Siberian elm, spruce, switchgrass, tall wheatgrass, wild sugarcane and willow.

Work performed

Ongoing or terminated long-term field trials spanning over the three main agro-ecological zones Mediterranean (AEZ 1), Atlantic (AEZ 2) and Boreal/Continental (AEZ 3) (Figure 1) were used to compile the biomass yield and quality data of the perennial industrial crops (Table 1).

Main results

Among the perennial lignocellulosic industrial crops studied here, some stand out for their adaptability to conditions prevailing on those types of marginal agricultural land which were covered by the long-term field trials (Table 1). Miscanthus, for example, is an all-rounder that allows lucrative biomass production under various marginality constraints such as heavy clay, low rooting depth or contamination (Table 1). Even in cooler regions such as southern Sweden, miscanthus can be grown, but then M. sinensis should be preferred to the more widespread Miscanthus x giganteus. This was assumed by researchers from WUR who discovered high dry matter yields of up to 19.8 t/ha for M. sinensis on sandy soil in the Netherlands (Table 1). However, miscanthus cultivation in general also has its limitations, for example, if the site is too drought-prone (too little rainfall, sandy soil) (Table 1). Then it is more advisable to grow more drought tolerant perennial lignocellulosic industrial crops such as Saccharum spp., giant reed or switchgrass (Table 1).

Among the woody industrial crops, willow and Siberian elm should be emphasized, as they allow lucrative biomass production (about 10 t/ha*yr. or more) on marginal agricultural land with harvest cycles of three years or longer (Table 1). The marginality constraints tolerated by wooden industrial crops include inter alia poor soil drainage, low pH, dryness, and peat soil. In cutaway peatland, for example, willow cultivation makes it possible to combine biomass production with the purpose of reforestation. In drought affected regions prone to degradation, woody industrial crops like Siberian elm could not only provide biomass but also help mitigating erosion and thus maintaining or even increasing soil fertility and agrobiodiversity in the long term.

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