Special Issue "Innovations and Perspectives of Industrial and Bioenergy Crops for Bioeconomy Development"

A special issue of Agriculture (ISSN 2077-0472). This special issue belongs to the section "Crop Production".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (20 December 2020) | Viewed by 26102

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A printed edition of this Special Issue is available here.

Special Issue Editor

Prof. Dr. Mariusz J. Stolarski
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Guest Editor
Department of Plant Breeding and Seed Production, Faculty of Environmental Management and Agriculture, Centre for Bioeconomy and Renewable Energies, University of Warmia and Mazury in Olsztyn, Pl. Łódzki 3, 10-724 Olsztyn, Poland
Interests: industrial and energy crops; biomass and byproducts; energy and economic efficiency; biomass production, harvesting, and logistics; multipurpose biomass utilization; bioproducts; biofuels; bioeconomy
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Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

The production of industrial and bioenergy crops has been the subject of scientific research for many years; however, the implementation of previously proposed solutions for commercial production is still at an early stage. It should be emphasized that when developing the production of industrial and bioenergy crops on agricultural lands, it is important to avoid land-use competition with the production of food and feed. It is well justified, for initiating the sustainable production of industrial and bioenergy crops, to promote efficient species for growing on marginal lands, which are unsuitable or less suitable for food or feed production. Another important point is that industrial and bioenergy crops should include nonfood and nonfeed crops and generate agricultural products categorized as commodities and/or raw materials for industrial goods and bioenergy. Therefore, this Special Issue will be focused on the following groups of crops: short rotation coppice (willow, poplar, robinia, eucalyptus, etc.), grasses (miscanthus, giant reed, switchgrass, reed canary grass, etc.), herbaceous crops (Virginia mallow, Jerusalem artichoke, etc.); fibre crops (hemp, etc.), oil crops (camelina, crambe, castor, cardoon, etc.), and other alternative crops and their residues that are suitable for the industry or energy sectors.

These industrial and bioenergy crops can become an important source of biomass. Of course, the concept of their cultivation for nonfood (and/or nonfeed) uses is not new but, despite considerable investment in research and development, little progress has been made with regard to the introduction of such crops and their products into the market. Therefore, papers should be focused on innovations and perspectives regarding sustainable industrial and bioenergy crops production, logistic chains, biomass quality, utilization and cascade biomass use for bioeconomy, socio-economic and energy analyses, etc.

I would like to encourage you to publish papers you might think match these topics in this open-access journal Agriculture. Your original research and review papers regarding recent developments and ideas on the abovementioned topics are very welcome.

Prof. Dr. Mariusz J. Stolarski
Guest Editor

Manuscript Submission Information

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Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a single-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Agriculture is an international peer-reviewed open access monthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 1800 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • industrial crops
  • energy crops
  • oil crops
  • lignocellulosic crops
  • short rotation coppice
  • fibre crops
  • herbaceous crops
  • grasses
  • medicinal crops
  • alternative crops
  • marginal land
  • sustainable cultivation
  • harvesting and logistic
  • crop productivity
  • cost and energy analysis
  • biomass quality
  • cascade biomass utilization
  • bioproducts
  • solid-liquid-gaseous biofuels

Published Papers (23 papers)

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Editorial

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Editorial
Industrial and Bioenergy Crops for Bioeconomy Development
Agriculture 2021, 11(9), 852; https://doi.org/10.3390/agriculture11090852 - 07 Sep 2021
Cited by 3 | Viewed by 684
Abstract
The production of industrial and bioenergy crops has been the subject of scientific research for many years; however, the implementation of previously proposed solutions for commercial production is still at an early stage [...] Full article

Research

Jump to: Editorial, Review

Article
Screening of Functional Compounds in Supercritical Carbon Dioxide Extracts from Perennial Herbaceous Crops
Agriculture 2021, 11(6), 488; https://doi.org/10.3390/agriculture11060488 - 25 May 2021
Cited by 6 | Viewed by 770
Abstract
The bio-based economy concept requires using biomass not only for energy production but also for bioactive compound extraction, application or biotransformation. This study analyzed the possibility of obtaining bioactive compounds from biomass before its transformation into biofuel. This involved an analysis of the [...] Read more.
The bio-based economy concept requires using biomass not only for energy production but also for bioactive compound extraction, application or biotransformation. This study analyzed the possibility of obtaining bioactive compounds from biomass before its transformation into biofuel. This involved an analysis of the total content of polyphenols (TPC), flavonoids (TFC), and spectral analysis using Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy (QATR- FTIR) as well as analysis of the antioxidant activity of extracts from selected perennial herbaceous crops cultivated on marginal lands in Poland. The extracts were obtained by supercritical carbon dioxide extraction (scCO2) or scCO2 with water as a cosolvent (scCO2/H2O) from biomass of the following plants: Helianthus salicifolius, Silphium perfoliatum, Helianthus tuberosus, Miscanthus × giganteus, Miscanthus sacchariflorus, Miscanthus sinensis and Spartina pectinata. The biomass was harvested twice during the growing period (June and October) and once after the end of the growing period (February). For most of the analyzed extracts obtained from biomass at the growing stage using scCO2 or scCO2/H2O, a higher TPC was noted than for samples of semi-wood or straw biomass obtained after the end of the growing period. Higher contents of polyphenolic compounds were recorded in extracts obtained using scCO2/H2O. A positive correlation between TPC and antioxidant activity was noted for the analyzed substrates. Flavonoid contents varied in the analyzed samples, and higher contents were generally obtained in scCO2 extracts from biomass harvested at the beginning of the growing period. A high diversity of extract compositions was confirmed by spectral analysis. The presented data can be used at the initial stage of planning a biorefinery. Full article
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Article
Impact Assessment of the Long-Term Fallowed Land on Agricultural Soils and the Possibility of Their Return to Agriculture
Agriculture 2021, 11(2), 148; https://doi.org/10.3390/agriculture11020148 - 11 Feb 2021
Cited by 9 | Viewed by 1013
Abstract
Agricultural land abandonment is a process observed in most European countries. In Poland and other countries of Central and Eastern Europe, it was initiated with the political transformation of the 1990s. Currently, in Poland, it concerns over 2 million ha of arable land. [...] Read more.
Agricultural land abandonment is a process observed in most European countries. In Poland and other countries of Central and Eastern Europe, it was initiated with the political transformation of the 1990s. Currently, in Poland, it concerns over 2 million ha of arable land. Such a large acreage constitutes a resource of land that can be directly restored to agricultural production or perform environmental functions. A new concept for management of fallow/abandoned areas is to start producing biomass for the bioeconomy purposes. Production of perennial crops, especially on poorer soils, requires an appropriate assessment of soil conditions. Therefore, it has become crucial to answer the question: What is the real impact of the fallowing process on soil, and is it possible to return it to production at all? For this purpose, on the selected fallowed land that met the marginality criteria defined under the project, physicochemical tests of soil properties were carried out, and subsequently, the results were compared with those of the neighboring agricultural land and with the soil valuation of the fallow land, which was conducted during its past agricultural use. The work was mainly aimed at analyzing the impact of long-term fallowing on soil pH, carbon sequestration and nutrient content, e.g., phosphorus and potassium. The result of the work is a positive assessment of the possibility of restoring fallowed land for agricultural production, including the production of biomass for non-agricultural purposes. Among the studied types of fallow plots, the fields where goldenrod (Solidago L.—invasive species) appeared were indicated as the areas most affected by soil degradation. Full article
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Article
The Agri-Environment-Climate Measure as an Element of the Bioeconomy in Poland—A Spatial Study
Agriculture 2021, 11(2), 110; https://doi.org/10.3390/agriculture11020110 - 01 Feb 2021
Cited by 6 | Viewed by 1051
Abstract
The Polish agricultural economy has a chance to dynamically develop and influence the innovation policy in the EU model of bioeconomy. The research aims to assess the spatial diversification of the level and structure of spending funds for two Rural Development Program (RDP) [...] Read more.
The Polish agricultural economy has a chance to dynamically develop and influence the innovation policy in the EU model of bioeconomy. The research aims to assess the spatial diversification of the level and structure of spending funds for two Rural Development Program (RDP) measures: agri-environment-climate measures (AECM) and organic farming scheme (OFS) aimed at supporting proenvironmental forms of agricultural management in the context of bioeconomy development. The EU financial perspective determined the time range for 2014–2020. The study was conducted on the example of Poland in two spatial scales: regional (province) and local (community). The analysis was based on partial indicators, which were then subjected to the standardisation procedure and included in the total as a synthetic indicator of the utilisation of RDP 2014–2020 funds aimed at supporting proenvironmental forms of farming. The following information was included in the evaluation: the number of farms, the size of utilised agricultural area (UAA) covered by support and the amounts of payments made under the two analysed RDP measures. In the research, the size and distribution of farms benefiting from AECM and OFS were determined. Besides, the relationship between funds absorption and socioeconomic development, as well as natural and non-natural conditions, were identified. The synthetic indicator of AECM/OFS usage showed a strong spatial differentiation, determined by the impact of several conditions: the level of socioeconomic development, the level of agriculture development, natural conditions of agriculture, land with significant natural and ecological values, and proenvironmental forms of land use on farms. Spatial diversification is more often the result of the impact of proenvironmental or natural-ecological factors than of socioeconomic conditions, or the level of agricultural development. Full article
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Article
Content and Uptake of Ash and Selected Nutrients (K, Ca, S) with Biomass of Miscanthus × giganteus Depending on Nitrogen Fertilization
Agriculture 2021, 11(1), 76; https://doi.org/10.3390/agriculture11010076 - 18 Jan 2021
Cited by 3 | Viewed by 989
Abstract
Fertilisation has a significant impact not only on the yielding, but also on the quality of the harvested biomass. Among energy crops, Miscanthus × giganteus are some of the most important plants used for combustion process. The chemical composition of biomass has significant [...] Read more.
Fertilisation has a significant impact not only on the yielding, but also on the quality of the harvested biomass. Among energy crops, Miscanthus × giganteus are some of the most important plants used for combustion process. The chemical composition of biomass has significant impact on the quality of combustion biomass. The effect of nitrogen fertilisation (with dose of 60 kg N ha−1) in different terms of biomass sampling on the content and uptake of crude ash, potassium, calcium and sulphur by rhizomes, stems, leaves and the aboveground part of miscanthus was evaluated in the paper. Nitrogen fertilisation contributed to the increase of ash content in the rhizomes and the aboveground part of plants. Independently of nitrogen fertilisation potassium content decreased in the whole vegetation period; in the case of stems this decrease amounted 60%. Calcium content in various parts of plants was highly differentiated compared to potassium content. Average calcium content in the aboveground parts was 2.68 higher compared to rhizomes. Nitrogen fertilisation affected significantly on potassium, calcium and sulphur uptake in all examined parts of plants (except stems in the case of calcium uptake). Uptake of crude ash under nitrogen fertilisation was significantly higher in all examined parts of plants during the whole vegetation period. Full article
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Article
Could the Content of Soluble Carbohydrates in the Young Shoots of Selected Willow Cultivars Be a Determinant of the Plants’ Attractiveness to Cervids (Cervidae, Mammalia)?
Agriculture 2021, 11(1), 67; https://doi.org/10.3390/agriculture11010067 - 15 Jan 2021
Cited by 3 | Viewed by 1181
Abstract
Ten willow cultivars grown in experimental plots were evaluated for performance, attractiveness to foragers, and the content and composition of soluble carbohydrates. The survival of willow cuttings in a thicket and in browse plots differed subject to cultivar, soil quality, and soil moisture [...] Read more.
Ten willow cultivars grown in experimental plots were evaluated for performance, attractiveness to foragers, and the content and composition of soluble carbohydrates. The survival of willow cuttings in a thicket and in browse plots differed subject to cultivar, soil quality, and soil moisture content. The number of stump sprouts varied considerably, from 1.1 shoots in the weakest soils in Słonin, Poland, to 3.43 in the plot in Czempin, Poland. Browse plots were established in 2017. They were cut, and fencing was removed in early spring of 2019. Young shoots (10 cm shoot tip with buds, preferably eaten by animals) were sampled for analyses of soluble carbohydrates as potential attractors for foraging cervids. All willow cultivars contained the same soluble carbohydrates: glucose, fructose, galactose, sucrose, myo-inositol, galactinol, and raffinose. Total carbohydrate content ranged from 21.31 (S. amygdalina 1045) to 69.37 mg/g−1 DM (dry matter) (S. purpurea). Glucose was the predominant soluble sugar in the shoots of all willow cultivars, excluding S. viminalis. The fructose content of the shoots was approximately twice lower than their glucose content in all willow cultivars. Smaller differences were observed in the content of myo-inositol, which ranged from 4.61 (S. amygdalina 1045) to 8.26 mg/g−1 DM (S. fragilis cv. Kamon/Resko). The phloem of all willow species contained small quantities of galactinol and trace amounts of raffinose. Weak negative correlations were noted between total carbohydrate content, the content of glucose, fructose, and galactose vs. the attractiveness of willow shoots to foraging cervids. The remaining carbohydrates that occurred in smaller quantities in willow shoots were not correlated with their attractiveness to cervids. Full article
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Article
The Effect of Mineral and Organic Fertilization on Common Osier (Salix viminalis L.) Productivity and Qualitative Parameters of Naturally Acidic Retisol
Agriculture 2021, 11(1), 42; https://doi.org/10.3390/agriculture11010042 - 09 Jan 2021
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 820
Abstract
One of the potential options for sewage sludge as an alternative organic material is the fertilization of energy crops. To evaluate the effect of granulated sewage sludge and mineral fertilization N60P60K60 on common osier’s (Salix viminalis L.) biomass productivity and soil parameters, [...] Read more.
One of the potential options for sewage sludge as an alternative organic material is the fertilization of energy crops. To evaluate the effect of granulated sewage sludge and mineral fertilization N60P60K60 on common osier’s (Salix viminalis L.) biomass productivity and soil parameters, field trials were held in Western Lithuania’s naturally acidic Retisol (WB 2014; pHKCl 4.35–4.58). After four years of cultivation and dependent on fertilization type, common osier dry matter (DM) yield varied from 49.60 to 77.92 t ha−1. Higher DM yield was related to an increased number of stems/plants. The application of a 90 t ha−1 sewage sludge rate had a significant and positive impact on common osier productivity, as well as on the increment of soil organic carbon, total N, and mobile P2O5 content in the upper 0–30 cm soil layer. The use of both sewage sludge rates (45 and 90 t ha−1) had a similar impact on soil bulk density, water-stable aggregates, and the active soil microbial biomass. Annual mineral fertilization had little effect on the parameters studied. When growing common osier in Retisol, 45 t ha−1 of a single sewage sludge rate was enough to maintain both plant and soil productivity. Full article
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Article
Can Miscanthus Fulfill Its Expectations as an Energy Biomass Source in the Current Conditions of the Czech Republic?—Potentials and Barriers
Agriculture 2021, 11(1), 40; https://doi.org/10.3390/agriculture11010040 - 08 Jan 2021
Cited by 6 | Viewed by 896
Abstract
Our article analyzes the main biological potentials and economic barriers of using Miscanthus as a new energy crop in agricultural practice in the Czech Republic and the Central-Eastern European region. We have used primary data from long-term field experiments and commercial plantations to [...] Read more.
Our article analyzes the main biological potentials and economic barriers of using Miscanthus as a new energy crop in agricultural practice in the Czech Republic and the Central-Eastern European region. We have used primary data from long-term field experiments and commercial plantations to create production and economic models that also include an analysis of competitive ability with conventional crops. Our results showed that current economic conditions favor annual crops over Miscanthus (for energy biomass) and that this new crop shows very good adaptation to the effects of climate change. Selected clones of Miscanthus × giganteus reached high biomass yields between 15–17 t DM ha−1 y−1 despite very dry and warm periods and low-input agrotechnology, and they have good potential to become important biomass crops for future bioenergy and the bioeconomy. Key barriers and factors are identified, including gene pool and agronomy improvement, change of subsidy policy (Common agriculture policy-CAP), climate change trends, and further development of the bioeconomy. Full article
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Article
Possibly Invasive New Bioenergy Crop Silphium perfoliatum: Growth and Reproduction Are Promoted in Moist Soil
Agriculture 2021, 11(1), 24; https://doi.org/10.3390/agriculture11010024 - 01 Jan 2021
Cited by 3 | Viewed by 1160
Abstract
The cup plant (Silphium perfoliatum) is a new and promising bioenergy crop in Central Europe. Native to North America, its cultivation in Europe has increased in recent years. Cup plant is said to be highly productive, reproductive, and strongly competitive, which [...] Read more.
The cup plant (Silphium perfoliatum) is a new and promising bioenergy crop in Central Europe. Native to North America, its cultivation in Europe has increased in recent years. Cup plant is said to be highly productive, reproductive, and strongly competitive, which could encourage invasiveness. Spontaneous spread has already been documented. Knowledge about habitat requirements is low but necessary, in order to predict sites where it could spontaneously colonize. The present experimental study investigates the growth and reproductive potential of cup plant depending on soil moisture, given as water table distance (WTD). In moist soil conditions, the growth and reproductive potential of cup plant were the highest, with about 3 m plant height, 1.5 kg dry biomass, and about 350 capitula per plant in the second growing season. These parameters decreased significantly in wetter, and especially in drier conditions. The number of shoots per plant and number of fruits per capitulum were independent of WTD. In conclusion, valuable moist ecosystems could be at risk for becoming invaded by cup plant. Hence, fields for cultivating cup plant should be carefully chosen, and distances to such ecosystems should be held. Spontaneous colonization by cup plant must be strictly monitored in order to be able to combat this species where necessary. Full article
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Article
Could Supercritical Extracts from the Aerial Parts of Helianthus salicifolius A. Dietr. and Helianthus tuberosus L. Be Regarded as Potential Raw Materials for Biocidal Purposes?
Agriculture 2021, 11(1), 10; https://doi.org/10.3390/agriculture11010010 - 26 Dec 2020
Cited by 17 | Viewed by 1326
Abstract
Extracts from the June collection of aerial parts of Helianthus salicifolius A. Dietr and Helianthus tuberosus L. were obtained using carbon dioxide supercritical fluid extraction with water as co-solvent. The antimicrobial effect in vitro of these extracts was then determined against reference species [...] Read more.
Extracts from the June collection of aerial parts of Helianthus salicifolius A. Dietr and Helianthus tuberosus L. were obtained using carbon dioxide supercritical fluid extraction with water as co-solvent. The antimicrobial effect in vitro of these extracts was then determined against reference species of bacteria, as well as against fungi (represented by Candida spp.). Both extracts were found to possess antimicrobial activity, with MIC = 0.62–5 mg mL−1 for bacteria and MIC = 5–10 mg mL−1 for yeasts, and both extracts demonstrated suitable bactericidal and fungicidal effect. The highest activity was observed against S. aureus ATCC 29213 (MIC = 0.62 mg mL−1 for H. salicifolius extract; MIC = 2.5 mg mL−1 for H. tuberosus extract) as confirmed by time–kill assay. Higher antioxidant activity was found for H. tuberosus extract (EC50 = 0.332 mg mL−1) as compared to that of H. salicifolius (EC50 = 0.609 mg mL−1). The total polyphenol content (TPC) expressed as gallic acid equivalents (GAE) was 13.75 ± 0.50 mg GAE g−1 of H. salicifolius extract and 33.06 ± 0.80 mg GAE g−1 of H. tuberosus extract. There was a relationship between the antioxidant potential of both extracts and TPC, but not between antistaphylococcal activity and TPC. The ATIR–FTIR spectra of both extracts showed similar main vibrations of the functional groups typical for phytoconstituents possessing bioactivity. The obtained data suggest potential application of these extracts as natural antioxidants and preparations with biocidal activity. Additionally, both extracts may be regarded as potential natural conservants in cosmetics, as well as natural preservatives in food. Full article
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Article
Biodiversity of Weeds and Arthropods in Five Different Perennial Industrial Crops in Eastern Poland
Agriculture 2020, 10(12), 636; https://doi.org/10.3390/agriculture10120636 - 14 Dec 2020
Cited by 4 | Viewed by 964
Abstract
A growing interest in the cultivation of non-food crops on marginal lands has been observed in recent years in Poland. Marginal lands are a refuge of agroecosystems biodiversity. The impact of the cultivation of perennial industrial plants on the biodiversity of weeds and [...] Read more.
A growing interest in the cultivation of non-food crops on marginal lands has been observed in recent years in Poland. Marginal lands are a refuge of agroecosystems biodiversity. The impact of the cultivation of perennial industrial plants on the biodiversity of weeds and arthropods have been assessed in this study. The biodiversity monitoring study, carried out for three years, included five perennial crops: miscanthus Miscanthus × giganteus, cup plant Silphium perfoliatum, black locust Robinia pseudoacacia, poplar Populus × maximowiczii, and willow Salix viminalis. As a control area, uncultivated fallow land was chosen. The experiment was set up in eastern Poland. A decrease in plant diversity was found for miscanthus and black locust. The diversity of arthropods was the lowest for the cup plant. No decrease in the number of melliferous plants and pollinators was observed, except for the miscanthus. The biodiversity of plants and arthropods was affected by the intensity of mechanical treatments, the fertilization dose, and the use of herbicides. The biodiversity also decreased with the age of plantation. Full article
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Article
Productivity and Biometric Characteristics of 11 Varieties of Willow Cultivated on Marginal Soil
Agriculture 2020, 10(12), 616; https://doi.org/10.3390/agriculture10120616 - 09 Dec 2020
Cited by 8 | Viewed by 742
Abstract
In response to the growth in the global population and climate change concerns, questions remain regarding the adaptation of production systems to meet increasing food and energy demands. The aim of the paper is to present the production potential and biometric features of [...] Read more.
In response to the growth in the global population and climate change concerns, questions remain regarding the adaptation of production systems to meet increasing food and energy demands. The aim of the paper is to present the production potential and biometric features of 11 willow varieties bred and cultivated mainly in Europe. The experiment was set up on marginal soil. The research was conducted in 2016–2020 and concerned 11 varieties of willow harvested in a three-year cycle. The dry matter yield of the examined willow varieties ranged from 6.5 to 13.8 Mg ha−1 year−1. Varieties Tur, Sven, Olof, Torhild, and Tordis were characterized by a relatively low level of yield (7.2–8.2 Mg ha−1 year−1). The highest dry matter yield was obtained for the varieties Ekotur and Żubr, respectively, of 11.5 and 13.8 Mg ha−1 year−1. The assessed varieties differed in both the level of obtained dry matter yield and biometric features. The Żubr variety produced the smallest number of shoots (three), but with the greatest height (4.8 m) and diameter (29.6 mm). Varieties with high production potential develop fewer shoots, but are taller and have a larger diameter than other varieties. Full article
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Communication
Adapting Syntropic Permaculture for Renaturation of a Former Quarry Area in the Temperate Zone
Agriculture 2020, 10(12), 603; https://doi.org/10.3390/agriculture10120603 - 04 Dec 2020
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 1878
Abstract
In Southwest Germany, the renaturation of quarry areas close to settlements is usually based on the planting of native species of trees and shrubs, which are then neither cultivated nor used. This study investigates whether a species-rich agroforestry system based on Ernst Goetsch’s [...] Read more.
In Southwest Germany, the renaturation of quarry areas close to settlements is usually based on the planting of native species of trees and shrubs, which are then neither cultivated nor used. This study investigates whether a species-rich agroforestry system based on Ernst Goetsch’s syntropic agriculture approach would be suitable for both renaturation in the form of soil fertility improvement and diverse food crop production under temperate climate. The quarry syntropy project was launched in summer 2019. Two shallow stony sections of a spoil heap of the quarry in Ehningen, Southwest Germany were available for demonstration plots. An interdisciplinary project team was set up both to obtain the official permits from five governmental institutions and to begin the study. The demonstration plots were each divided into three broad strips, which differ in three vegetation types: trees, shrubs, and annual food crops. The tree and shrub areas are mainly used for biomass production for a continuous mulch supply on the entire cultivated area in order to rapidly increase soil fertility. The food crops and also partly the trees and shrubs were intended to provide organically produced food (vegetables, fruit, berries and herbs). Most of the trees (eleven species) were planted in November 2019. In March 2020, soil samples were taken (0–30 cm), and a solar-powered water storage system was installed. Currently, the shrub and annual food crop strips are under preparation (pre-renaturation phase). In this initial phase, the priority is fertility improvement of the topsoil through intensive mulching of the existing grassland stock dominated by top grasses and the legumes hybrid alfalfa (Medicago × varia Martyn) and common bird’s-foot trefoil (Lotus corniculatus L.). The food crop strip should then start in 2021 after one year of mulching. Depending on the success of growth, the tree strips should then also gain in importance for mulch application in the following years. The strategy is to gradually build up food crop cultivation under organic low-input agricultural practices while simultaneously enhancing the biophysical growth conditions guided by natural succession. Full article
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Article
Growth Potential of Yellow Mealworm Reared on Industrial Residues
Agriculture 2020, 10(12), 599; https://doi.org/10.3390/agriculture10120599 - 03 Dec 2020
Cited by 6 | Viewed by 1386
Abstract
Since the world’s population will continue to grow in the next decades, the problem of providing people with food will deepen. One-third of the food production volume is wasted while nearly one in ten people in the world suffer from hunger. To reduce [...] Read more.
Since the world’s population will continue to grow in the next decades, the problem of providing people with food will deepen. One-third of the food production volume is wasted while nearly one in ten people in the world suffer from hunger. To reduce the negative impact of human activity on the environment and meet the needs of the population, alternative sources of protein are proposed. Yellow mealworm larvae can be used as a source of food and animal feed. Therefore, this study aimed to compare the growth performance, feed conversion ratio (FCR) and efficiency of ingested feed (ECI) by yellow mealworm larvae fed 13 different diets containing chicken feed (CF), rapeseed meal (RM), wheat bran (WB) and willowleaf sunflower (WS) residues after the process of supercritical CO2 extraction. The mean dry individual bodyweight for all diets used in the experiment was 31.44 mg dry matter (d.m.) Mealworms fed diet mixes that contained WB demonstrated the highest dry individual larval weight (from 40.9 to 47.9 mg d.m.). A significantly lower dry individual larval weight was found for mealworms fed solely WS residues (3.9 mg d.m.). The FCR ranged from 1.57 to 2.08, for pure CF and pure WS diet, respectively. The ECI of yellow mealworm larvae varied significantly (mean value 20.1%) and depended on the diet. Moreover, the ECI of mealworm was significantly the lowest and amounted to 5.9% for the pure WS diet. The industrial residues investigated in this study can be successfully used for mealworm farming, excluding pure willowleaf sunflower residues. Full article
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Article
The Energy and Environmental Potential of Waste from the Processing of Hulled Wheat Species
Agriculture 2020, 10(12), 592; https://doi.org/10.3390/agriculture10120592 - 01 Dec 2020
Cited by 3 | Viewed by 917
Abstract
Organic farmers farming on arable land have often had, in addition to the cultivation of common species of cultivated crops (such as wheat, rye, triticale or potatoes), interest in the cultivation of marginal crops such as hulled wheat species (Einkorn, Emmer and Spelt [...] Read more.
Organic farmers farming on arable land have often had, in addition to the cultivation of common species of cultivated crops (such as wheat, rye, triticale or potatoes), interest in the cultivation of marginal crops such as hulled wheat species (Einkorn, Emmer and Spelt wheat). The production of marginal cereals has seen significant developments in the European Union related to the development of the organic farming sector. Just the average annual organic production of spelt in the Czech Republic reached more than 9000 tons in 2018. The cultivation of these cereals requires post-harvest treatment in the special method of dehulling. The waste emerging after dehulling of spikelet (i.e., chaff) accounts for about 30% of the total amount of harvest and can be used as an alternative fuel material. When considering the energy utilization of this waste, it is also necessary to obtain information on the energy quality of the material, as well as environmental aspects linked to their life cycle. For evaluating the energy parameters, the higher and lower heating value, based on the elemental (CHNS) analysis, was determined. The environmental aspects were determinate according to the Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) methodology where the system boundary includes all the processes from cradle to farm gate, and the mass unit was chosen. The SimaPro v9.1.0.11 software and ReCiPe Midpoint (H) within the characterization model was used for the data expression. The results predict the energy potential of chaff about 50–90 TJ per year. The results of this study show that in some selected impact categories, 1 kg of chaff, as a potential fuel, represents a higher load on the environment than 1 kg of lignite, respectively potential energy gain (1 GJ) from the materials. Full article
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Article
Planting Density Effects on Grow Rate, Biometric Parameters, and Biomass Calorific Value of Selected Trees Cultivated as SRC
Agriculture 2020, 10(12), 583; https://doi.org/10.3390/agriculture10120583 - 26 Nov 2020
Cited by 5 | Viewed by 883
Abstract
Agricultural land is mostly devoted to food production. Production of biomass is limited, as it competes for land with basic food production. To reduce land loss for growing food, biomass can be grown on marginal lands that are not usable for food production. [...] Read more.
Agricultural land is mostly devoted to food production. Production of biomass is limited, as it competes for land with basic food production. To reduce land loss for growing food, biomass can be grown on marginal lands that are not usable for food production. The density of plantings have to be optimized to maximize yield potential. The presented study compares yield parameters end energy potential of six species of biomass plants (poplar, Siberian elm, black alder, white birch, boxelder maple, silver maple) cultivated in 18 planting densities from 3448 to 51,282 plants per hectare as short rotation coppice (SRC). Biomass yield parameters depended on both cultivated species and planting density. Green mass, dry mass, and shoot diameter was dropping with the increasing planting density for most tested species. Calculated yield of dry mass was dropping with increasing planting density for black alder, increasing for Siberian elm and boxelder maple. White birch and silver maple yields were optimal at moderate planting densities (25,000–30,000). White birch and boxelder maple had the highest average higher heating value (HHV). The optimal density of plantings should be chosen to best suit both the needs of cultivated species and to optimize the most important parameters of produced biomass. Full article
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Article
Biomass Characteristics and Energy Yields of Tobacco (Nicotiana tabacum L.) Cultivated in Eastern Poland
Agriculture 2020, 10(11), 551; https://doi.org/10.3390/agriculture10110551 - 17 Nov 2020
Cited by 6 | Viewed by 1126
Abstract
The present pilot study examined the potential of tobacco (Nicotiana tabacum L.) as an energy source. The fresh matter of whole tobacco plants, the yield of dry matter of stems and leaves, as well as the higher heating value and methane production [...] Read more.
The present pilot study examined the potential of tobacco (Nicotiana tabacum L.) as an energy source. The fresh matter of whole tobacco plants, the yield of dry matter of stems and leaves, as well as the higher heating value and methane production potential from tobacco biomass were determined. The yield of tobacco leaves was on average 4.69 Mg ha−1 (dry matter) and 76.90 GJ ha−1 yr−1 (biomass energy yield). Tobacco stems yielded on average 8.55 Mg ha−1 and 150.69 GJ ha−1 yr−1, while yields of whole tobacco crops were (on average) 13.24 Mg ha−1 and 227.59 GJ ha−1 yr−1. Methane potential of tobacco plants was (on average) 248 Nm3 Mg−1 VS (volatile solids). The tobacco plants tested in the study could be used as energy crops as their dry matter and energy yields are similar to those of the most popular energy crops being currently used in biomass production in Poland and the European Union. Nevertheless, further studies to choose the Nicotiana species and varieties most suitable for energy production and to assess the cost-effectiveness of tobacco biomass production are needed. Full article
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Article
The Eucalyptus Firewood: Understanding Consumers’ Behaviour and Motivations
Agriculture 2020, 10(11), 512; https://doi.org/10.3390/agriculture10110512 - 30 Oct 2020
Cited by 6 | Viewed by 824
Abstract
Italy is one of the world’s major importers of firewood, despite the large amount of Italian eucalyptus plantations that could satisfy part of the country’s internal demand. The demand is critical for farmers to understand developing market dynamics and people’s willingness to buy [...] Read more.
Italy is one of the world’s major importers of firewood, despite the large amount of Italian eucalyptus plantations that could satisfy part of the country’s internal demand. The demand is critical for farmers to understand developing market dynamics and people’s willingness to buy a product is related to several parameters, including different supply methods. This study aimed to analyse the willingness to consume domestic eucalyptus firewood, and the related motivations of consumers considering the preferred supply method. Data was collected through a web-survey and analysed applying a multilevel regression. In general, the sample showed that attention is paid to both the type of wood and its origin, and that there is a preference for loose firewood as a supply method. Our findings suggest that factors such as age, experience, and familiarity with a product, the supply method, attitude towards novelty, provenience, and energetic density of firewood have an important role in shaping individual inclination towards consuming domestic eucalyptus firewood. This implies that the owners of eucalyptus plantations should target mostly young and detail-oriented consumers, and should also try to clearly give information regarding the origin of the product and its technical characteristics. Full article
Article
The Influence of Three Years of Supplemental Nitrogen on Above- and Belowground Biomass Partitioning in a Decade-Old Miscanthus × giganteus in the Lower Silesian Voivodeship (Poland)
Agriculture 2020, 10(10), 473; https://doi.org/10.3390/agriculture10100473 - 13 Oct 2020
Cited by 4 | Viewed by 1058
Abstract
Because of the different opinions regarding nitrogen (N) requirements for Miscanthus × giganteus biomass production, we conducted an experiment with a set dose of nitrogen. The objective of this study was to examine the effects of nitrogen fertilization on the biomass yield, water [...] Read more.
Because of the different opinions regarding nitrogen (N) requirements for Miscanthus × giganteus biomass production, we conducted an experiment with a set dose of nitrogen. The objective of this study was to examine the effects of nitrogen fertilization on the biomass yield, water content, and morphological features of rhizomes and aboveground plant parts in various terms during a growing season over the course of three years (2014–2016) in Lower Silesia (Wroclaw, Poland). The nitrogen fertilization (dose 60 kg/ha and control) significantly affected the number of shoots (p = 0.0018), the water concentration of rhizomes (p = 0.0004) and stems (p = 0.0218), the dry matter yield of leaves (p = 0.0000), and the nitrogen uptake (p = 0.0000). Nitrogen fertilization significantly affected the nitrogen uptake in all plant parts (p = 0.0000). Although low levels of nitrogen appeared to be important in maintaining the maximum growth potentials of mature Miscanthus × giganteus, the small reductions in the above- and belowground biomass production are unlikely to outweigh the environmental costs of applying nitrogen. More studies should use the protocols for the above- and belowground yield determination described in this paper in order to create site- and year-specific fertilizer regimes that are optimized for quality and yield for autumn (green) and spring (delayed) harvests. Full article
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Article
Effects of Site, Genotype and Subsequent Harvest Rotation on Willow Productivity
Agriculture 2020, 10(9), 412; https://doi.org/10.3390/agriculture10090412 - 17 Sep 2020
Cited by 9 | Viewed by 1116
Abstract
Perennial crops harvested in short rotations provide substantial amounts of biomass. This study determined the survival rate, biometric features and yield of fresh and dry biomass of 15 willow genotypes (including seven varieties and eight clones), cultivated at two different sites in two [...] Read more.
Perennial crops harvested in short rotations provide substantial amounts of biomass. This study determined the survival rate, biometric features and yield of fresh and dry biomass of 15 willow genotypes (including seven varieties and eight clones), cultivated at two different sites in two consecutive three-year harvest rotations. The study revealed the very high impact of the genotype (81% of the total variance) on the willow yield. The harvest rotation, along with the genotype, had a significant impact on the plant survival rate and the number of shoots per stool. Willow biomass was mainly affected by the plant height, its survival rate and shoot diameter. The significantly highest fresh (106 Mg ha−1) and dry biomass yield (54.0 Mg ha−1) was obtained from the Żubr variety of S. viminalis, which distinguished this variety from the other genotypes. The mean yield for the best three and five genotypes was 13% and 17% lower, respectively, and the mean yield for the whole experiment was 37% lower compared to the mean yield of the best variety (Żubr). Therefore, the choice of a willow genotype is of key importance for successful willow production. Full article
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Review

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Review
Ground Beetles (Carabidae) in the Short-Rotation Coppice Willow and Poplar Plants—Synergistic Benefits System
Agriculture 2020, 10(12), 648; https://doi.org/10.3390/agriculture10120648 - 18 Dec 2020
Cited by 4 | Viewed by 1027
Abstract
In a short period, we have observed the rapid expansion of bioenergy, resulting in growth in the area of energy crops. In Europe, willow and poplar growing in short-rotation coppices (SRC) are popular bioenergy crops. Their potential impact on biodiversity has not yet [...] Read more.
In a short period, we have observed the rapid expansion of bioenergy, resulting in growth in the area of energy crops. In Europe, willow and poplar growing in short-rotation coppices (SRC) are popular bioenergy crops. Their potential impact on biodiversity has not yet been fully investigated. Therefore, there are many uncertainties regarding whether commercial production can cause environmental degradation and biodiversity impoverishment. One of the aspects examined is the impact of these crops on entomofauna and ecosystem services. The best-studied insect group is ground beetles from the Carabidae family. This work gathers data on biodiversity and the functions of carabids in willow and poplar energy plants. The results of these investigations show that energy SRC plants and Carabidae communities can create a synergistic system of mutual benefits. Willow and poplar plants can be a valuable habitat due to the increased biodiversity of entomofauna. Additionally, SRC creates a transitional environment that allows insect migration between isolated populations. On the other hand, ground beetles are suppliers of ecosystem services and make a significant contribution to the building of sustainable agriculture by pest control, thereby ameliorating damage to field crops. Full article
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Review
Silphium perfoliatum—A Herbaceous Crop with Increased Interest in Recent Years for Multi-Purpose Use
Agriculture 2020, 10(12), 640; https://doi.org/10.3390/agriculture10120640 - 16 Dec 2020
Cited by 9 | Viewed by 1577
Abstract
Silphium perfoliatum is a perennial crop native to North America that has been the subject of increased scientific interest in recent years, especially in Europe. It is drought- and frost-resistant, which makes it suitable for cultivation in Europe on marginal lands that are [...] Read more.
Silphium perfoliatum is a perennial crop native to North America that has been the subject of increased scientific interest in recent years, especially in Europe. It is drought- and frost-resistant, which makes it suitable for cultivation in Europe on marginal lands that are not used for growing other crops. This review analyzed the distribution and purposes of the cultivation of Silphium perfoliatum worldwide, as well as its biomass yields and characteristics as a feedstock for biogas production and other purposes. A total of 121 scientific publications on Silphium perfoliatum were identified, with the highest number (20 papers) published in 2019. It was found that higher biomass yields can be obtained at higher precipitation levels, with the use of fertilizers and an adequate type of plantation. The mean dry matter yield of Silphium perfoliatum was 13.3 Mg ha−1 DM (dry matter), and it ranged from 2 to over 32 Mg ha−1 DM. In some countries, Silphium is used as a forage crop mainly due to its high crude protein content (from 4.9% to 15% DM), depending on the vegetation phase. Silphium perfoliatum is a promising perennial crop in terms of energy and other benefits for biodiversity, soil quality and applications in medicine and pharmacology. Full article
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Review
Herbaceous Oil Crops, a Review on Mechanical Harvesting State of the Art
Agriculture 2020, 10(8), 309; https://doi.org/10.3390/agriculture10080309 - 23 Jul 2020
Cited by 22 | Viewed by 1611
Abstract
The sustainable production of renewable energy is a key topic on the European community’s agenda in the next decades. The use of residuals from agriculture could not be enough to meet the growing demand for energy, and the contribution of vegetable oil to [...] Read more.
The sustainable production of renewable energy is a key topic on the European community’s agenda in the next decades. The use of residuals from agriculture could not be enough to meet the growing demand for energy, and the contribution of vegetable oil to biodiesel production may be important. Moreover, vegetable oil can surrogate petroleum products in many cases, as in cosmetics, biopolymers, or lubricants production. However, the cultivation of oil crops for the mere production of industrial oil would arise concerns on competition for land use between food and non-food crops. Additionally, the economic sustainability is not always guaranteed, since the mechanical harvesting, in some cases, is still far from acceptable. Therefore, it is difficult to plan the future strategy on bioproducts production from oil crops if the actual feasibility to harvest the seeds is still almost unknown. With the present review, the authors aim to provide a comprehensive overview on the state of the art of mechanical harvesting in seven herbaceous oil crops, namely: sunflower (Heliantus annuus L.), canola (Brassica napus L.), cardoon (Cynara cardunculus L.), camelina (Camelina sativa (L.) Crantz), safflower (Carthamus tinctorius L.), crambe (Crambe abyssinica R. E. Fr.), and castor bean (Ricinus communis L.). The review underlines that the mechanical harvesting of sunflower, canola and cardoon seeds is performed relying on specific devices that perform effectively with a minimum seed loss. Crambe and safflower seeds can be harvested through a combine harvester equipped with a header for cereals. On the other hand, camelina and castor crops still lack the reliable implementation on combine harvesters. Some attempts have been performed to harvest camelina and castor while using a cereal header and a maize header, respectively, but the actual effectiveness of both strategies is still unknown. Full article
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