A very recent study on energy crops in germany (September 2014) was published in BIOMASS & BIOENERGY. A review shows several advantages in perennial bioenergy crops regarding pesticides and suggest they should be promoted further.
Energy crops are being cultivated increasingly in Europe and Germany is probably the most relevant country to start a review on experiences and policy. And this is particularly important if we consider a sustaianbility criteria. In 2008, energy crops were grown on more than 5.5 million ha (approximately 5% of the arable land) in the EU-27, compared to 3.5 million ha in 2005. On most of this land (82%), rapeseed was grown for the production of biodiesel. The remainder was used for the cultivation of annual crops for ethanol (11%) and biogas production (4%), as well as for plantations of perennial crops (2%). The European Academies Science Advisory Council calculated that approximately 21 million ha of arable land would be needed to achieve the EU 10% target for biofuel use in the transport sector.
The article was written by researchers at the following organizations: Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research, University Koblenz-Landau, Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology, Deutsches Biomasseforschungszentrumand University Leipzig, Institute for Infrastructure and Resources Management.
Energy Crops and pesticides
Based on the case study of Germany, Europe’s leading country in the cultivation of energy crops, authors examined the potential of energy crops for pesticide contamination.
Authors findings revealed that the growth of energy crops will not necessarily cause an increase or decrease in the amounts of pesticides released into the environment. Due to the great variety of energy crops, the potential effects will depend rather on the future design of the agricultural systems.
“Instead of creating energy monocultures, annual energy crops should be integrated into the existing food production systems. Financial incentives and further education are required to encourage the usage of sustainable crop rotations, innovative cropping systems and the cultivation of perennial energy crops, which may add to crop diversity and generate lower pesticide demands than do intensive food farming systems. In addition, a further extension of the cultivation of energy crops should be accompanied by mandatory restrictions to protect the remaining permanent grassland“.