Use of marginal lands for biomass production

The use of marginal lands for cultivation of some plants that will be dedicated exclusively to the sustainable biomass production.

With many diverse opinions on planting crops for use by sustainable bioenergy being able to take advantage of these hectares for the use of agro-food crops, with approvals of regulatory measures, the European Union is carrying out them to limit the use of this last type of crop (agro-food) and thus be able to carry them through a totally different land use to bioenergy production.

Helping in turn with the boost that is being made to the production of sustainable biofuels with lignocellulosic biomass such as common reed or the prairie panizo.

The researcher Dolores Curt of the GA-UPM group Maintains that  " salinity in the soil or in irrigation is a limitation for many agricultural crops, but it can be an opportunity to produce biomass that does not compete with the agro-food sector and thus improve its sustainability. Common sugarcane is a salinity-tolerant energy crop and supported by the European Union. For all these reasons, it is important to know where it could be promoted and what its production would represent ”.

As this researcher comments, salinity is a very important factor (There are several factors of this type) to take into account when making a land suitable for agro-food crops since the salinity affects both directly and indirectly the growth of plantsEither because of the damage caused by salinity or because of the decrease in the absorption of water by the roots, something vital for the survival of the plants.

For this same reason and so that agro-food crops (with little production) or abandoned lands are not depleted, they choose to use these marginal lands, saline lands, for the cultivation of certain plant species that are resistant or rather, they have tolerance to salinity.

A clear example and arousing the interest of most researchers in this area is in the common reed Since it not only has that tolerance to salinity, but it is also a perennial herbaceous plant (a non-woody plant that is capable of living for more than two years), it adapts to edaphoclimatic conditions, that is, conditions pertaining to the soil and the climate.

It also gives us a high productivity in terms of annual harvests of lignocellulosic biomass refers.

With this objective, the GA-UPM researchers have developed a specific methodology to estimate biomass production that could involve the use of marginal saline lands and marginalized lands with the possibility of irrigation with saline waters, for the biomass production with common cane.

This developed methodology consists of empirical functions of response to the availability of water and the yield of common cane to salinity, in addition to obtaining geo-referenced information. Taking into account the different variable levels of salinity that can be found in the territory and obviously in the irrigation water. Also following the sustainability criteria that can be found.

Javier Sánchez, main author of the work, tells us; "This methodology has been applied to the case of mainland Spain but it could also be used in other Mediterranean areas with available geographic information", when we find some truly amazing data, and it is that according to the figures obtained we can see that in Spain there are close to 34.500 hectares of agricultural land marginalized by salinity where the cultivation of common cane would be a very good option for the proper use of these lands as well as being sustainable.

Therefore, it would be possible to have a potential biomass production of 597.400 tons of dry matter per year, in terms of an electrical performance of 25%, of course variable, if each inhabitant consumes 730 KWh per year, which would correspond to a primary energy per year of about 10.5 million gigajoules (GJ)

Thanks to this work and the efforts of the GA-UPM group, Spain could be a pioneer in the production of sustainable biomass, taking advantage of marginal saline lands instead of having approximately 35.000 hectares of soil not suitable for agro-food cultivation.

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