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Innovative value chains from tree & shrub species grown in marginal lands as a source of biomass for bio-based industries

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - BeonNAT (Innovative value chains from tree & shrub species grown in marginal lands as a source of biomass for bio-based industries)

Reporting period: 2020-07-01 to 2021-12-31

The main problems addressed are the following:
1) INCREASING DEMAND FOR BIO-BASED PRODUCTS: The existing economic system is increasingly moving away from the use of fossil-based raw materials towards an economy based on natural material cycles.
2) SOIL DEGRADATION AND LOSS OF BIODIVERSITY IN MARGINAL LANDS: Marginal lands are defined in Europe as the land uses at the margin of economic viability and affected by soil degradation processes.
3) GLOBAL WARMING EFFECTS: Climatic changes will bring many and complex effects for forests over different EU bioclimatic regions.
4) RURAL ABANDONMENT IN EUROPE: Since 1960, the rural population in Europe has declined by 20%, and the population of predominantly rural regions is projected to fall another 7.9 million by 2050. Rural depopulation and aging contribute to the trend of farmland abandonment.
BeonNAT project proposes to use marginal lands which do not compete neither with agriculture use for food production nor with fibre/wood industries, to obtain biomass for the production of new bio-based products following a biorefinery cascading concept.
In BeonNAT, forest tree and shrub species will be cultivated in marginal lands in Spain, Germany and Romania (countries with large areas of marginal lands) to obtain wood-based feedstock for several industrial applications. Thanks to BeonNAT implementation, it is expected to enhance biodiversity and soil quality in marginal lands, offering more environmental services. The creation of new bio-based value chains for different markets (cosmetic industry, packaging sector, pet industry, etc.) will generate rural employment in places where marginal lands are in the limit of the economic viability, leading to significant positive effects to the rural economy.
During the first Reporting Period 1RP (M1-M18) a selection of underutilised tree and shrub species according to biochemical and ecological aptitudes to grow in marginal lands of Spain, Germany and Romania was performed. Thirteen species were considered taking into account their ecological aptitudes, described and discussed in D1.1.
Results of Tasks 1.1 and 1.2 were evaluated to select the best 4 species per country to be cultivated in WP2. Then the collection of vegetal material from species selected was performed according to protocols (D2.1) and sent to specialized nurseries to prepare the plants for their establishment in BeonNAT intercropping plantations trials.
While the cultivation of the selected species is being studied in WP2, project advances in parallel in obtaining and characterising bioproducts from them in WP3 to WP7.
Work performed during the 1RP concerning the different processes to obtain bioproducts are resumed below:
WP3. ESSENTIAL OILS AND EXTRACTS. In WP3, the objectives are the development of a portable unit for biomass distillation to obtain essential oils and the obtaintion of high added-value compounds with functional properties.This prototype distillation unit able to manage big bales on site has been designed by El Jarpil in collaboration with CIEMAT. The extraction, fine chemical and functional characterisation of raw wild material is ongoing.
WP4.BIOPLASTICS.The aim of WP4 is to produce fermentable sugars from the selected species, test and characterise them for the production of poly-lactic acid that will be used to create new added-value bioplastics. In the first 9 months (9 to 18), the work has focused on the production of fermentable sugars from wild material to produce lactic acid by CIEMAT through steam-explosion (SE) pretreatment and enzymatic hydrolysis (EH) and in the production of lactic acid (LA) from pretreated wild material by ATB.
WP5. BIOCHAR/ACTIVATED CARBON. The objectives of WP5 is to test and characterise Biochar and Active Carbon production from new feedstock. The work from M9 to M18 has concentrated on Biochar production and characterisation from raw wild material by RE-CORD and on the activation and characterisation of the activated biochar by ENVIROHEMP.
WP6. ABSORBENTS FOR PET INDUSTRY. The aim of WP6 is to define the best species and additive formulation for pet industry absorbents and the selection of optimum process parameters for the pelletizing . The work carried out between M9 and M18, is related to absorbent pellet design using raw collected material and other BeonNAT additives.
WP7. WOOD PULP AND PARTICLE BOARD. The objective of WP7 is to test and characterise the production of wood pulp and particleboards and establish the requirements for final products. During the RP1 (M9-M18), the chemical characterization of the cell wall of most samples collected was carried out by CIEMAT and reported in D7.1. CESEFOR has worked on the evaluation of the suitability of the different biomass materials supplied by CIEMAT for pulp and particle board.
WP8, deals with cross cutting issues: MARKET, BIODIVERSITY AND VALUE CHAIN SUSTAINABILITY ASSESSMENTS. In WP8, the concept of marginal land has been defined under different criteria and a selection of potential marginal areas to grow Beonnat selected species has been made through mapping agricultural, marginal forest land and the distribution of the species considered. The Life Cycle Sustainability Assessment has started by the identification of current counterparts to potential BeonNAT products and the definition of the LCA methodology.
The BeonNAT COMMUNICATION AND DISSEMINATION ACTIVITIES are managed in WP9. Actions expected during the project life and onwards are intended to boost the transferability of the results and demonstrate the added value of the BBI projects. In order to achieve this, a Communication and Dissemination Plan was created and reported in the D9.7. Moreover, a website was created (D9.1) as a tool to increase the visibility.One access publication and 5 congress communications were made within RP1.
BeonNAT cropping system (short rotation coppice and intercropping) offers new habitats for animal and plants favoring biodiversity and is expected to contribute to climate change mitigation, new jobs creation and to the strengthening of the European bio-economy. Soil quality and biodiversity evolution will be monitoring along the project. The aim beyond of the state of the art is the advance in knowledge and application of these techniques in marginal land, continuing where H2020 and LIFE projects as MAGIC, STROMA and ENERBIOSCRUB have ended.
BeonNAT selected species are underutilised species in traditional wood sector. Furthermore, most BeonNAT products are innovative, so beyond of state of art, new feedstock capable of growing in marginal land will be explored.
The main socioeconomic impact of BeonNAT will be the creation of new job opportunities in the bio-based sector, particularly in the forest-based sector as primary producers (agricultural or forestry) will be needed to cultivate tree and shrub species in Spain, Germany and Romania and their work, experience and knowledge will benefit BeonNAT project countries and all other marginal areas within the EU-27.
In BeonNAT consortium, a big number of RTO, SME and LE will develop, scale-up and launch to the market several new innovative products highly demanded on markets. New business niches will generate new job positions, mainly for highly qualified personnel.