– Low emission farming
The objective of the BIOCAS project was to ignite the development of a regional circular bioeconomy and turn the rural areas into smart specialized regions for the integrated and local valorization of biomass, based on biomass cascading principles.
We have been part of the interreg project BIOCAS, which aimed to create local growth and development based on the cascade utilization of biomass resources. The project was a collaboration between partners in Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, and Belgium. In Denmark, our partnership has been that of Lolland Falster, together with representatives from the Bioeconomic Growth Center in Guldborgsund Municipality, CELF, Business Lolland Falster, World Perfect, Aarhus University and University of Southern Denmark.
No products made from biomass can be regarded as sustainable unless the biomass is produced in a sustainable way. Our role in the project was to investigate options for conversion to low emission farming. We have focused on Conservation Agriculture, where we can produce high yields with a lower consumption of resources and with more room for biodiversity, a lower CO2 footprint and the potential to store carbon in the soil.
In the future, biomass will be an even more in-demand resource than it is today. Biomass will be in demand for many purposes other than feed, food and energy, and we must therefore find methods to utilize the biomass more efficiently.
BIOCAS is short for cascade utilization of biomass. Cascade utilization means to look at the possibilities of utilizing a biomass resource in several steps – incl. all side streams. An example could be that dyes for the industry can be extracted from a press residue from the production of cherry wine, or that wax could be extracted from straw before using the rest of the straw in a biogas plant.
The idea is that the various biomasses must be utilized as best as possible, before the last remaining biomass, possibly is burned off, used for feed or filled in a biogas plant.
The purpose of the project was to a large extent to spread the mindset of cascade utilization to both producers of biomass and buyers of biomass. This will cause both parties to consider whether they can get more out of the biomass resources and residual products by using them in a different way.
Read more about the project here: BIOCAS Conservation Agriculture (in Danish).
– Is CA part of the solution?
In this project it has been examined whether Conservation Agriculture (CA) can be part of the solution to some of the challenges that farmers in Denmark are facing. The hypothesis was that we can preserve and promote the fertility of the soil, produce good yields with less input and increase biodiversity, as well as improve the profitability of the farms.
The main principles of CA are minimum mechanical soil disturbance, permanent soil organic cover and species diversification, which contributes to reduce infection pressure and weed problems, while at the same time promoting soil structure. Therefore, the expectation was that good yields could be achieved while saving money and time.
In partnership with University of Copenhagen, we have over four years compared nitrogen leaching, biodiversity, organic matter in the soil as well as factors that are important for pesticide leaching on farms with respectively conventional cultivation with ploughing, reduced tillage and Conservation Agriculture. Yields, consumption of time and fuel have been logged, and the profitability was compared.
The most important results from the project were, that yields in the same level can be achieved in CA as with more traditional cultivation, cultivation costs are significantly lower in CA, biodiversity is significantly improved and no increase in nitrogen leaching is seen.
Read more about the project here: GMSR.DK (in Danish).
Agroecology-TRANSECT is a 4 year trans-disciplinary and trans-European project which starts in September 2022. The project aims to contribute to releasing the full potential of agroecology for European agriculture by strengthening the knowledge base for farmers and advisors, as well as supporting decision makers.
Agroecology is a holistic and integrated approach that simultaneously applies ecological and social concepts and principles to the design and management of sustainable agriculture and food systems. It seeks to optimize the interactions between plants, animals, humans and the environment while also addressing the need for socially equitable food systems within which people can exercise choice over what they eat and how and where it is produced. Agroecology is concurrently a science, a set of practices and a social movement and has evolved as a concept over recent decades to expand in scope from a focus on fields and farms to encompass the entirety of agriculture and food systems. It now represents a transdisciplinary field that includes the ecological, socio-cultural, technological, economic, and political dimensions of food systems, from production to consumption (FAO, 2022).
Our role in the project is to work with agroecological principles in the fields. Examples could be diversification of crops, conservation tillage, green manures, natural fertilizers and nitrogen fixation, biological pest control, production of crops in ways that store carbon, and a lot of other things. We are going to work with living labs, where farmers are the drivers of the development. The farmers that will be involved in the project are already working with agroecological principles on their farms today, but we will encourage and support them in developing and implementing more agroecological methods.
You can follow the project on Twitter here: twitter.com/ag_transect.