Multi-pur­pose plant a new idea in wait­ing

South Waikato News - - Property - GERALD PIDDOCK

Re­searchers in Ger­many are look­ing at ways be­yond meat, grain or dairy­ing for farm­ers to grow and profit from in fu­ture.

On a 200-hectare farm at Meck­en­heim, 15km south west of Bonn, sci­en­tists are in­ves­ti­gat­ing how plants can be used for ev­ery­thing from bio­fuel, to build­ing ma­te­ri­als, pa­per and medicine.

The Univer­sity of Bonn’s Dr Thorsten Kraska says plants such as vir­ginia mellow, cup plant, princess tree and jerusalem ar­ti­choke can all be used for mul­ti­ple pur­poses be­fore be­ing burned as biomass.

Th­ese crops can play a key role in sus­tain­able farm­ing in the fu­ture be­cause they have mul­ti­ple uses.

Kraska told jour­nal­ists vis­it­ing the farm as part of the In­ter­na­tional Fed­er­a­tion of Agri­cul­tural Jour­nal­ists 2016 Congress the mis­cant­hus plant ex­cited him the most.

From the grass fam­ily, the plant had more than 30 dif­fer­ent uses, in­clud­ing an­i­mal bed­ding, soil sub­sti­tu­tion, fuel and as a build­ing in­dus­try ma­te­rial. Burn­ing it should al­ways be its fi­nal use.

‘‘Don’t use your biomass plant just for en­er­getic pur­poses.

‘‘It should be for a ma­te­rial use and then later on, when you can do noth­ing else, then you can burn it.’’

Mis­cant­hus had a low 1:15 parts en­ergy in­put to out­put ra­tio.

In com­par­i­son, rape seed and maize plants had an en­ergy in­put to out­put ra­tio of 1:3 and a max­i­mum of 1:5.

It could grow more than two me­tres high and would over­grow nearby weeds, elim­i­nat­ing the need for her­bi­cide, he said.

‘‘It can grow up to five cen­time­tres a day when the con­di­tions are right.

‘‘In mid-sum­mer now, in July, we can make a mea­sure­ment in the morn­ing and in the af­ter­noon and find clearly that the plant is grow­ing.’’


In Bonn, Ger­many sci­en­tists are in­ves­ti­gat­ing news uses for land.

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