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Implementing Miscanthus Into Farming Systems: A Review Of Agronomic Practices, Capital And Labour Demand

B. Winkler, Anja Mangold, M. Cossel, J. Clifton-Brown, M. Pogrzeba, I. Lewandowski, Yasir Iqbal, Andreas Kiesel
Published 2020 · Environmental Science

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Abstract Miscanthus is a promising bioeconomy crop with several biomass utilisation pathways. However, its current cultivation area in Europe is relatively low. This is most likely due to a lack of knowledge about the implementation of miscanthus into farming systems. This study reviews current best practices and suitable land areas for miscanthus cultivation. Biomass production costs and labour requirements were evaluated over the whole 20-year cultivation cycle of four utilisation pathways: combustion, animal bedding, and both conventional and organic biogas production. The assessment was performed for two field sizes (1 and 10 ha), two average annual yield levels (15 and 25 t dry matter ha−1), and both green and brown harvest regimes. The maximum attainable annual gross margins are 1657 € ha−1 for combustion, 13,920 € ha−1 for animal bedding, 2066 € ha−1 for conventional and 2088 € ha−1 for organic biogas production. The combustion pathway has the lowest labour demand (141.5 h ha−1), and animal bedding the highest (317.6 h ha−1) due to additional baling during harvest. Suitable cultivation areas include depleted soils, erosion-prone slopes, heavy clay soils and ecological focus areas such as riparian buffer zones and groundwater protection areas. On such sites, miscanthus would (i) improve soil and water quality, and (ii) enable viable agricultural land utilisation even on scattered patches and strips. Due to its low demands and perennial nature, miscanthus is suitable for sustainable intensification of industrial crop cultivation in a growing bioeconomy, benefiting soil and water quality, while providing large amounts of biomass for several utilisation pathways.
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