Multi-purpose plant a new idea in waiting
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.’’
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In Bonn, Germany scientists are investigating news uses for land.