Open day on crops for biofuel

FARMERS in East Yorkshire can discover how to get the best out of crops grown for biofuels at a special open day.

With an estimated 1.1 million tonnes of grain per year needed at the Vivergo Fuels biorefinery near Hull, from 2012, growing wheat to produce bioethanol for fuels is likely to become an increasingly important market for farmers in the region.

Choosing the best variety and deciding on how much fertiliser to apply to get the most out of biofuel crops will be the subject of a display at the ADAS High Mowthorpe Open day at Towthorpe on 29 June.

Biorefining involves converting the starch from grains into ethanol which is then blended with petrol. Using grain reduces greenhouse gas emissions associated with transport and reliance on fossil fuels.

The keys to maximising the greenhouse gas savings include maximising grain yields to maximise alcohol yields, and minimising fertiliser Nitrogen inputs.

This is because over 70 per cent of the greenhouse gas emissions and 20 per cent of the economic cost of production of wheat are associated with fertiliser Nitrogen.

Recent research carried out at ADAS tested wheat varieties for their suitability for biorefining, including hard (feed) varieties which are not usually used.

They found that, although the soft wheat variety Glasgow gave the best alcohol yields per tonne of grain, there were hard wheats that gave higher alcohol yields per hectare because of their higher grain yields.

Wheat was also compared to triticale, a hybrid of wheat and rye, which is known as a low input crop but is not grown widely.

In five out of six trials the triticale outyielded the wheat, meaning that greenhouse gas emissions associated with growing and biorefining the crop would be lower than wheat.

“Triticale has a lot of potential as a crop for bioethanol production.

“The new varieties available are agronomically far superior to those that were available when some farmers tried growing it in the 1980s,” said ADAS researcher Dr Richard Weightman.

The open day, supported by HGCA, will feature suitable wheat and triticale varieties for bioethanol production, demonstrations by ADAS and industry experts on crop protection and production of wheat and barley, as well as varieties and manure management.

The event will run from 11am to 4pm, with free admission and refreshments.