On Farm Agronomic and First Environmental Evaluation of Oil Crops for Sustainable Bioenergy Chains
AbstractEnergy crops, and in particular oil crops, could be an important occasion for developing new non food production rows for a new multi-functional agriculture in Italy. In this view, the use of local biomass is a fundamental starting point for the development of a virtuous energy chain that should pursue not only agricultural profitability, but also chain sustainability and that is less dependent on the global market, characterized by instability in terms of biomass availability and price. From this perspective, particular attention must be paid to crop choice on the basis of its rusticity and of its adaptability to local growing conditions and to low input cropping systems. In this context, alike woody and herbaceous biomasses, oil crops such as sunflower and rapeseed should be able to support local agricultural bioenergy chain in Italy. In addition, in a local bioenergy chain, the role of the farmers should not be limited just to grain production; but also grain processing should be performed at farm or consortium level in oilseed extraction plants well proportioned to the cropped surface. In this way, by means of a simple power generator, farmer could thus produce its own thermal and electric energy from the oil, maximizing his profit. This objective could also be achieved through the exploitation of the total biomass, including crop residues and defatted seed meals, that may be considered as fundamental additional economic and/or environmental benefits of the chain. This paper reports some results of three-years on-farm experiments on oil crop chain carried out in the framework of “Bioenergie” project, that was focused to enhance farmers awareness of these criteria and to the feasibility at open field scale of low-input cultivation of rapeseed, sunflower and Brassica carinata in seven Italian regions. In several on-farm experiences, these crops produced more than 800 kg ha-1 of oil with good energy properties. Defatted seed meals could be interesting as organic fertilizers and, in the case of B. carinata, as a biofumigant amendment that could offer a total or partial alternative to some chemicals in agriculture. Furthermore, biomass soil incorporation could contribute to C sequestration, catching CO2 from atmosphere and sinking a part in soil as stable humus. Finally, four different open field experiences carried out again in the second year of the project, have been analysed in order to evaluate their energy and greenhouse gasses balance after cultivation phase.
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Copyright (c) 2009 Luca Lazzeri, Lorenzo D’Avino, Marco Mazzoncini, Daniele Antichi, Giuliano Mosca, Federica Zanetti, Andrea Del Gatto, Sandro Pieri, Giuseppe De Mastro, Nicola Grassano, Salvatore Cosentino, Venera Copani, Luigi Ledda, Roberta Farci, Guido Bezzi, Alessandro Lazzari, Riccardo Dainelli, Paolo Spugnoli
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