The environmental impact of bioenergy production from biomass strongly depends on the crop cultivation. This study looks into the ecological optimisation of biomass cultivation answering following three questions: What is the environmental advantage of organic over integrated farming? Which crops are suited for biomass production? What other key factors have to be considered for a ecological production? The LCA was carried out using the SALCA-methodology (Swiss Agricultural Life Cycle Assessment) of Agroscope Reckenholz-Tänikon Research Station ART. Per kg harvested product (dry matter, starch for bioethanol crops, oil for biodiesel crops respectively) organic farming of energy crops is preferred to integrated production for corn, silage maize and soy cultivation. For cereals and rapeseed cultivation organic farming has advantages and drawbacks. The lowest environmental impacts for biogas show extensive grassland. Together wit sugar beets it also has the lowest environmental impact for bioethanol. There is not a preferable crop for biodiesel.
Symbiotic nitrogen fixation by bacteria in the soil coexisting with legumes leads to reduced fertiliser requirement. It is not easy to measure this variable on farms, however. Now researchers from Agroscope have developed a method for estimating nitrogen input via symbiotic fixation at farm level.
With increasing global and regional temperatures, even in Switzerland the growing season has lengthened considerably. Using data from the Federal Office of Meteorology and Climatology, Agroscope has traced the development of the growing season since the start of the previous century.
The phosphate mineral reserves required for fertiliser production could be exhausted on a global scale in just a few decades. This study presents a method for recycling a Swiss industrial by-product into a phosphate fertiliser.