AD 'the Missing Link' for Bioenergy15 May 2012
UK - Achieving sustainable intensification in farming was a hot topic at the 2012 National Farmers Union (NFU) Conference earlier this year and is a significant aspect of Europe’s Common Agricultural Policy reforms. The ability of anaerobic digestion (AD) to help diversify and intensify a farming business while reducing environmental impact is central to these discussions.
Although the focus of attention on AD is often around waste feedstocks, purpose grown crops for AD plants have an important role to play in delivering the UK’s bioenergy targets, reports the NNFCC.
While the anaerobic digestion of purpose grown crops is often described as a biomass technology, it differs significantly from other forms of biomass energy in terms of cultivation, process and sustainability. These differences come largely from the way that AD falls easily within normal farming practices, rather than being separate from it.
Purpose grown crops can be – and already are – grown as break crops helping to promote biodiversity in British agriculture, complementing existing agricultural rotations and improving soil quality. The land used to grow purpose grown crops does not need to be moved completely away from food production.
On farms with carefully planned rotations, biodiversity can be aided by introducing a wider range of crops in the rotation with different characteristics (such as planting, flowering and harvest dates).
Maize is the most commonly used purpose grown crops for AD at present, but technological advances and the UK climate mean that there are opportunities to use a wide range of crops, including grasses and wild flower mixes.
AD offers many benefits to farms, including producing a renewable energy – which can be used to reduce electricity bills or heat and transport costs – a biofertiliser, in the form of ‘digestate’ which recycles nutrients back to land, as well as providing sources of diversified revenue – from energy generated on site, which can be injected back into the electricity or gas grids and potential markets for biofertiliser.
The Anaerobic Digestion and Biogas Association (ADBA), the trade body representing the UK’s AD industry, is keen to support on-farm AD. As a result, with the help of the NFU, Environment Agency and Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, ADBA is now leading the development of best practice guidance for growing crops for AD in order to ensure that the role of biogas in sustainable agriculture can be maximised.
To give farmers all the AD information they need, ADBA has now dedicated an entire day’s conference programme at UK AD & Biogas 2012 to the farming sector. Covering topics such as ‘the strength of energy crops in AD’ (Henry Robinson, Deputy President of the Country Land & Business Association), ‘AD’s Role in supporting the sustainable intensification of farming’, ‘building a business plan & minimising risks’, ‘feedstock options’, ‘technology choices’ and much more.
‘The Business Case for on-farm AD’, chaired by Gwyn Jones, conference day is an excellent opportunity to find out whether AD is the missing link in your farming business. ADBA wants to maximise the benefits of AD in farming, where its contribution could increase efficiency, generate income and reduce costs and emissions. The best practice guidance and the focus on farming at the conference demonstrate ADBA’s and the AD industry’s commitment to supporting the farming industry.
To register for the event, click here.