One important reason why conventional agriculture is environmentally unsustainable is that it is a net user of large amounts of fossil fuels either via direct energy costs for machinery use or via derived agrochemical products. as such it is far from being an energy-neutral activity. This proposal attempts to develop a mainstream and productive arable agricultural system that has a minimum goal of energy neutrality. Thus, it will aim to show how it may be possible to integrate, spatially, renewable energy production from biomass crops with low input food crops. It attempts to develop, conceptually, novel combined food and energy (CFE) integrated farming systems that are not only fossil fuel energy-neutral but which also use the biomass crops as ecological reservoirs to enhance biological control within adjacently grown food crops. The CFE system builds upon the principles of integrated crop production, and takes them further in the direction of energy neutrality in agriculture, reduction of inputs and improved profitability for producers. The CFE system produces both food and renewable energy, but it produces them together; this is its crucial point.
Via modelling and experimentation we will assess integrated CFE systems for their ecological value, their financial and environmental economic value, and their balance of renewable and non-renewable energy. We will compare CFE systems with a range of food crops plus woody biomass for heat and electricity production.
Development of CFE systems should lead to improvements in landscape and land use efficiency. This proposal also aims to improve the physical and biological diversity of farms their production efficiency and profitability, and lead to waste minimisation with reduced environmental costs thereby contributing to ecological reform of the CAP.
In this project we will examine and model;
(I) how modified land use and management techniques enhance landscape value, biodiversity and biological control by exploitation of natural regulatory components of the ecosystem.
(ii) the physical and biological properties, nutrient and energy balances, and economic viability of combined food and energy production systems
(iii) the complete production and processing cycle of energy crops for heat and power production.
(iv) the costs and benefits of examples of such a combined system, with and without subsidy support to producers, and in a way that includes external as well as internal cost/benefits.
This project should also provide integrated packages of land use and crop management for alternative production systems, and the factors affecting the likelihood of farmers adopting CFE systems will be appraised.
With this proposal we highlight the CFE system as a new and integrated farming system which contributes tangibly to increased biodiversity in arable food production. We integrate horizontally and vertically the distribution of major tasks and sub-tasks between partners and the communication of our results to the wider community.
Funding SchemeCSC - Cost-sharing contracts