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Catch crops are grown between the harvest and sowing of main crops in arable rotations. Catch crops are, essentially, opportunity crops being grown as and when the opportunity to do so arises, and, hence using land which may otherwise be unused. Traditionally used to extend the grazing season for ruminant livestock the practice has diminished in the UK with the decline in mixed farming. Catch crops could be re-introduced into arable rotations to provide a feedstock for anaerobic digestion to generate biogas. This document summarizes the results and conclusions of a conceptual and experimental investigation of the potential for growing catch crops for fuel with particular reference to the UK and more general reference to the EC. A full account of the methods and findings of the study appears in the Final Report and particular components of the investigation, namely three field experiments and a paper study of the conversion of catch crop material to fuel, are described in greater detail in Supplementary Reports 1 to 4. This study grew out of a more general assessment of the potential of UK agriculture to produce plant material for use as an energy source carried out in the Department of Agriculture of the University of Reading from 1977 to 1980 and sponsored by the UK Department of Energy (Spedding et al, 1979, 1980). This study identified the growing of catch crops for fuel as a promising opportunity seeing the advantages and scope of the practice as follows: + Growing catch crops for fuel would not displace feed production or require major changes in the structure of agriculture, but would use existing farm resources to provide a feedstock or fuel to increase farm income or reduce farm energy costs. + Catch fuel crops would be treated as opportunity crops and would not be expected to bear fixed costs, thus appearing more economically viable than dedicated energy crops. Cheaper and more reliable anaerobic digestion systems would render the practice even more attractive. + The practice could be introduced into arable regions throughout the UK and the EC providing there is a sufficiently long interval between the harvest and sowing of main crops. In common with other studies (Palz & Chartier, 1980; Plaskett, 1980; ETSU, 1982) the assessment study of Spedding et al (1979, 1980), while drawing attention to the apparent potential of growing catch crops for fuel, was insufficiently detailed or accurate in its assessment of this potential leaving a number of gaps and uncertainties and this study was considered necessary. The central objective of this study was, therefore, to assess the potential for growing catch crops for fuel in the UK. Important spin-offs included an understanding of the management of the catch fuel crop system, and a number of recommendations for further research and development.

Additional information

Bibliographic Reference: EUR 9989 EN (1985), MF, 112 P., BFR 300, BLOW-UP COPY BFR 560, EUROFFICE, LUXEMBOURG, POB 1003
Availability: Can be ordered online
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