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Sustainability 2015, 7(8), 10709-10732; doi:10.3390/su70810709

Integrated Bioenergy and Food Production—A German Survey on Structure and Developments of Anaerobic Digestion in Organic Farming Systems

Faculty of Organic Agricultural Sciences, Department of Farm Management, University of Kassel, Steinstr. 19, Witzenhausen 37213, Germany
These authors contributed equally to this research paper.
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Academic Editors: Susan Krumdieck and Deepak Pant
Received: 1 June 2015 / Revised: 10 July 2015 / Accepted: 28 July 2015 / Published: 7 August 2015
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Sustainable Use of Biomass Energy)
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Abstract

Rising global energy needs and limited fossil fuel reserves have led to increased use of renewable energies. In Germany, this has entailed massive exploitation of agricultural biomass for biogas generation, associated with unsustainable farming practices. Organic agriculture not only reduces negative environmental impacts, organic farmers were also prime movers in anaerobic digestion (AD) in Germany. This study’s aim was to identify the structure, development, and characteristics of biogas production associated with organic farming systems in order to estimate further development, as well as energetic and associated agronomic potentials. Surveys were conducted among organic farms with AD technology. 144 biogas plants could be included in the analysis. Total installed electrical capacity was 30.8 MWel, accounting for only 0.8% of the total installed electrical capacity in the German biogas sector. Recently, larger plant types (>250 kWel) with increased use of (also purchased) energy crops have emerged. Farmers noticed increases in yields (22% on average) and quality of cash crops in arable farming through integrated biogas production. In conclusion, although the share of AD in organic farming is relatively small it can provide various complementary socio-ecological benefits such as the enhancement of food output through digestate fertilization without additional need for land, while simultaneously reducing greenhouse gas emissions from livestock manures and soils. However, to achieve this eco-functional intensification, AD systems and their management have to be well adapted to farm size and production focus and based primarily on residue biomass. View Full-Text
Keywords: organic agriculture; biogas; farm survey; eco-functional intensification; agronomic productivity organic agriculture; biogas; farm survey; eco-functional intensification; agronomic productivity
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This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. (CC BY 4.0).

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MDPI and ACS Style

Blumenstein, B.; Siegmeier, T.; Bruckhaus, C.; Anspach, V.; Möller, D. Integrated Bioenergy and Food Production—A German Survey on Structure and Developments of Anaerobic Digestion in Organic Farming Systems. Sustainability 2015, 7, 10709-10732.

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