Field experiments and modelling of energy crops

This task aimed at providing novel evidence and data on the yields, biomass quality and environmental impacts of energy crops, and to analyze it in terms of process modelling. The task covered a range of soils and climate conditions, with experimental fields located in the UK, France, and Italy.

The following sets of variables were recorded on perennial grasses and short-rotation coppice (SRC): crop eco-physiology in order to better understand the response of crops to environmental and management factors, belowground biomass and litter quantity and quality in order to assess carbon inputs to soils, water, C and N fluxes during crop cultivation and after the destruction of perennial crops, in order to fully assess the life-cycle impacts of the crop.

An experiment was carried out in Pisa (Italy) on two perennial rhizomatous grasses, namely giant reed and Miscanthus under different irrigation and nitrogen input levels, as well as on poplar SRC under different irrigation levels and different soil conditions (sandy and clay). The results are reported in the following deliverables regarding the effects of crop destruction and yields.

The existing data on yield, quality and environmental impacts were pooled together with the new measurements into one database and processed using models developed by INRA, namely STICS and CERES-EGC. Both models were tested against a dozen of experimental data sets, and to improved by optimizing their parameters and/or by modifying their formalisms. The results are reported in an upcoming deliverable. The data sets and models generated in this task were used to assess cropping systems and the environmental impacts of feedstock production in the logistics chain – a key aspect of the overall sustainability.