Energy crops are being restricted in Denmark forfor producing biogas and some new rules push producers to limit the share in their feedstock. However perennial grasses and legumes are allowed and promoted.

Rules restricting energy crops to 25% of a plant’s feedstock are due to start in August this year. From August 2018 the limit will be further reduced to 12%. However perennial grasses and legumes are EXCLUDED!

The reporting rules, revealed on 7 January, extend existing requirements regarding plants’ output of digestate to include the share of energy crops they take in. Facilities not complying with the requirement risk losing subsidies. Denmark’s energy agency and agrifish agency will jointly monitor the reports. The agencies expect to receive the first reports from September. A consultation on precisely how the system will work closes on 9 January and the results are expected in the early spring.

The decision to limit energy crops comes from a political drive mirrored across Europe, to move biogas production away from crops that can be used for food to processing waste. Germany, for example, has completely cut subsidies for energy crops have been removed, while France is also introducing legislation. Crops affected mainly include food varieties such as corn, beets and artichokes. Specifically, the rules apply to crops harvested as a whole for biogas use and therefore exclude waste from agricultural processes. Grass and clover is excluded as long as the land it is from has not been ploughed for a five year period or is farmed organically.

Denmark plans to increase from 5PJ to 46PJ the contribution of energy crops from 2010 to 2030.

Soil and biodiversity are key issues behind but also food security

The main reason to exclude o limite some crops is soil and rotations. Considering annual species like maize or others, is already clear to diminish ecological services. That’s why perennial grasses and legumes like clovers are being promoted and allowed. The number of years without ploughing is the main issue.

See benefits for soil and ecological services of perennial grasseshere.

grasslands bioenergy systems1

“Well, the truth is that we need perennial grasses and legumes in our lands and biogas or other bioenergy is probably the best way to achieve it with ecological services and soil improvement”

The discussion about food security requires a different approach. We have land available we don’t use in Europe and it is decreasing progessively. Some countries like Spain and Poland have a huge opportunity to grow some species. And our food security is not linked at all to the fact we produce food on those lands, but a decent salary and income to go to the store and get high quality products.

If farmers get much more income with less subsidies when producing energy crops for biogas, Europe import of fossil energy decrease and local employment increase. The whole thing will be probably to grow highly value added products (organic meat for example) and reduce acreage dedicated to annual crops. But what we can do if we don’t have the cattle? Should we grow just annual crops? Well, the truth is that we can have perennial grasses and legumes and biogas is very much linked to this fact.

What are annual species promoted before in Denmark? The main species used for biogas were maize, triticale, beets and artichokes. Specifically, the rules apply to crops harvested as a whole for biogas use and therefore exclude waste from agricultural processes. Grass and clover are both excluded as long as the land usedhas not been ploughed for a five year period or is farmed organically.

Typical grasses with potential in Denmark include new kind of “cold tolerant” and highly productive Tall wheatgrass that performs much better than other novel crops in colder areas.

The grasses and other perennial species would be a feedstock input for biogas energy systems. The visionary model we promote is the one shown in the video below, which describes a proposed Northern Missouri project.

AkasaVision Consulting in British Columbia recently interviewed Holistic Management advocate and former HMI board member Sallie Calhoun. In these two short videos, Sallie talks about why she likes hanging out with fellow Holistic Management practitioners, unintentional mistreatment of soils, profitability, native grasses and carbon sequestration.


See more about biogas and energy crops here.

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