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MODELS FOR THE ECONOMIC EVALUATION OF BIOMASS PRODUCTION AS AN ALTERNATIVE LAND USE IN THE EUROPEAN COMMUNITY

Objective

The goal of the project is the development of an expert system for PC's, combining a number of appraisal models for the economic evaluation of selected biomass plantations (Poplar, Willow, Sweet Sorghum) as an alternative land use.

The economic evaluation of the production of biomass for energy, is carried out according to current international methodologies, in order to maintain format and compatibility with other work in the same area. The expert system operates under MS Windows and is easy to learn and use. It is mainly addressed to agricultural consultants, policy makers, planners etc. The system is especially useful in cases of alternative land use, i.e. cases where conventional food crops are considered to be replaced by biomass cultivations. In such situations the model computes and evaluates incremental costs and reports on the economic viability of the projects. The expert system is capable of evaluating a great variety of biomass projects, processes information in tabular form and covers a sufficiently large number of time periods.

This artificial intelligence package is known as Beaver, ( Biomass Economic Appraisal & Evaluation Expert).

Traditionally, quinoa grains are toasted or ground into flour. They can also be boiled like rice and added to soups or made into breakfast food or pasta. Foliage of quinoa can be used in the young leafy growth stage as a vegetable crop like spinach and in a later growth stage as a green fodder crop for animals or to make into silage. The crop can also be dried and processed for green pellets. Recently, there has been an increasing interest in quinoa in the food and processing industry. The quality of quinoa starch granules makes it suitable as a fat replacing ingredient in many diet products and as an interesting raw material for industrial processing. Although the perspectives look promising, the use of quinoa is still in an experimental stage of development in Europe. However, it should be fairly easy to incorporated it into arable husbandry. At present the yield is fairly low and some varieties contain bitter, potentially deleterious compounds. Hence, both the yield and quality of quinoa needs to be improved by plant breeding and better crop management. The work reported in this booklet represents a good starting point for those interested in this novel crop.

Taxonomy, origin and distribution

Quinoa (Chenopodium quinoa) is the only member of the Chenopodacae which makes a significant contribution to food or fodder production. It is probable that quinoa was domesticated by the pre Inca Indians about 3000 to 5000 years ago at the Altiplano plateau around Lake Titicaca in Peru. Quinoa is generally grown at altitudes between 2000 and 4000 m. However, in subtropical and temperate regions of central Chile, quinoa types are also cultivated at sea level. It has been introduced and tested in many regions outside its original home in the Andean area, often in cereal crop rotations as an additional break crop to control weed and disease problems. However, up to now, in Europe quinoa is still a novel crop, grown on a (very) small scale as a speciality.

Seed properties

Seed size and weight are dependent upon variety, but generally rather small (1.8 to 2.6 mm in diameter and from 1.5 to 6 mg in weight). For varieties grown in NW Europe, 1000 seed weight ranges from 1.5 to 3 g. The high nutritive value of quinoa is clearly demonstrated by a high energy content and a favourable chemical composition. On dry matter basis, the energy value is around 1500 kJ/100 g edible portion, similar to that of wheat and rice. The protein content is higher than in common cereals with a higher levels of essential amino acids (lysine, methionine and cystine). The starch content is about 60%, with about 20% amylose. Starch granules are uniformly small in size (1 to 4 mm). The seed (pericarp) contains saponins (soap like components which foam when dissolved in water), the amount varying from almost zero in saponin free cultivars to about 4% in bitter cultivars. Saponins reduce and are toxic if they reach the bloodstream. They are usually removed by vigorous washing or by abrasion of the seeds.

Development and growth

Quinoa is an annual plant species, sown in April/May and harvested in September/October. In temperate regions, the growth cycle ranges from 120 to 160 days depending on growing conditions and cultivar (short day to neutral day types). Plant height depends upon varieties and can range from 0.5 to 3.0 m at maturity. In contemporary genotypes, tillering is rather poor and only found in low plant densities. The inflorescence, developing at the top of the stem, looks like a panicle, 15-70 cm long. The seeds are covered by a pericarp and susceptible to pre sprouting. Quinoa forms a tap root from which secondary and tertiary roots develop. This large and highly ramified root system can exploit the upper soil layers intensively; some roots will penetrate into the soil to more than 1.5 m depth.

Non food use

Starch is stored in granules, which are uniform, but extremely small in size, as indicated above. Recently, the starch processing industry has become interested in the properties (small sized and uniform starch granules) of quinoa as a raw material for special outlets. However, at present the product prices makes a profitable production of quinoa unlikely at present for this purpose. However, if the yield of quinoa can be increased it may become of interest to the starch industry.

Consortium Coordinated by Centre de Valorisation des Glucides et Produits Naturels, Poulainville (FR) with U of Cambridge, Department of Genetics (UK), D. Roslin Institute, AFRC Institute of Animal Physiology and Genetics Research, Edinburgh UK, AVEBE (NL), Research Station for Arable Farming and Field Production of Vegetables Lelysted (NL), Royal Veterinary and Agricultural University, Crop Science Section, Frederiksberg (DK), Danish Institute of Plant and Soil Science, Roskilde Experimental Station (DK), Centrum voor Plantenveredelings en ENEA, Reproduktieonderzoek (CPRO DLO), Wageningen (NL), ENEA, Dipartimento Agro Biotecnologie ROMA (IT), RVAU Taastrup (DK), Nederlands Instituut voor Koolydraat Onderzoek, Groningen (NL).

Funding Scheme

CSC - Cost-sharing contracts

Coordinator

DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURAL ENGINEERING AGRICULTURAL UNIVERSITY OF ATHENS
Address
Iera Odos 75
11855 Athens
Greece

Participants (3)

Aston University
United Kingdom
Address
Aston Triangle
B4 7ET Birmingham
Centrum Neue Technologien
Germany
Address
Engelhardstraße 12
81369 München
Istituto Sperimentale per la Meccanizzazione Agricola
Italy
Address
Via Della Pascolare Monterotondo 16
00016 Roma