Preliminary farm-level estimation of 20-year impact of introduction of energy crops in conventional farms in the UK
Renewable and Sustainable Energy, 2019
Obinna C.D. Anejionu and Jeremy Woods
There is a renewed interest in large-scale production of non-food energy crops in the UK to enable it to meet its renewable energy targets. There are strong indications that with increasing demand for biomass feedstocks, energy crops will be grown in arable farms alongside food crops. This raises environmental, socio-political and economic concerns on the energy-food-environment balance. It also raises a fundamental question on where and how much bioenergy crop could be cultivated in farms without adversely affecting food production and ecosystem services. Therefore, this research sets out to firstly ascertain whether the introduction of bioenergy crops in conventional farms could have beneficial or adverse effects on food production and the environment, and secondly, to explore various strategies through which bioenergy crops could be integrated in farms. Spatially explicit datasets and models were used to investigate the interaction of energy and food crops at the farm level, and associated effects over a 20-year period. Using appropriate biophysical and biomass indicators the impacts of were assessed. This study found that careful integration of Miscanthus in farms is beneficial as it reduces sediment and nutrient loss, and increases biomass yield, without adversely affecting food production. This research is significant as it demonstrates the potential of largescale production of bioenergy crops from fragmented sources. It also presented effective strategies through which bioenergy crops can co-exist with food crops, without leading to the food-energy-environment trilemma.