Carbo-BioCrop will provide new and improved information concerning the carbon mitigation potential of bioenergy crops within the UK landscape. This will help inform the contribution bioenergy crops give towards the legally binding commitment the UK has on climate change and renewable energy generation (e.g. Climate Change Act 2008; DECC 2009; European Parliament, 2009). Carbo-BioCrop will provide information to quantify how the land-use change towards SRC and Miscanthus cropping will influence soil carbon emissions. This will provide key data to identify the optimum areas of the countryside in which bioenergy crops could most effectively be grown and under-pin the production of ‘carbon opportunity maps’ for the UK. The contribution of soil augmentation with biochar to soil carbon processes will also be investigated as a potential CO2 sequestration strategy for the UK landscape.
Using biological material to produce feedstock for energy production such as liquid fuels (biofuel) and heat and power (bioenergy), can off-set CO2 emissions through a reduced demand for fossil fuel combustion. Using dedicated perennial energy crops to provide the feedstock may also contribute to CO2 mitigation by long term sequestering of carbon in the soil. The magnitude and importance of these contributions to the net energy and carbon balance of fuel production remains controversial with very limited datasets from long-term commercial experiments in the UK.
Second generation bioenergy crops (such as Miscanthus and SRC, the focus of the Carbo-BioCrop project) can grow on marginal land not designated for cereals, avoiding direct competition with land for food. They are a versatile feedstock for both biofuel and bioenergy and management requirements of these perennial crops mean they offer a greater chance for sequestering carbon in the soil then annual energy crops such as wheat and oil seed rape.
The multi-disciplinary team of Carbo-BioCrop has strong expertise in SRC and Miscanthus research from breeding and improvement, modelling of biomass production, and soil carbon turnover, long-term field trials with eddy covariance flux systems measuring CO2 and H2O exchanges and static chambers for trace green-house gas exchanges are available to the consortium.
The Carbo-BioCrop project will use existing process based models originating from climate science (JULES) crop science (DNDC) and Miscanthus productivity (BEGRASS) and SRC productivity (ForestGrowth-SRC). The models will be parameterized and validated with field and lab studies including, for example; Green-house gas fluxes, 13C tracing, soil microbial biomass, litter decomposition, and a time series of biochar augmentation. These improved models will be used to estimate the effect of land-use change to second generation energy cropping on UK carbon emissions.
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