Climate Change, land availability and biomass potential at Bioenergy Genomics 2017

Botany One is preparing to attend Bioenergy Genomics 2017. Jack Bailey-Bale looks ahead to see what we can expect

Bioenergy Genomics 2017 focuses on the development of bioenergy crops for future climates. The meeting will act as a melting pot for researchers, breeders, growers and policy makers to share and discuss the growth of the field in recent years due to the advancement of technologies linking genotype and phenotype. Furthermore, research will be presented documenting the advancement in our understanding of plant traits underpinning responses to biotic and abiotic stresses. Five categorised sessions, as well as an integrated poster session, will unveil the latest findings and consider how such technologies and knowledge can be applied to bioenergy crops to combat climate change.

Spindly, easy to chop wood.
Bioenergy Genomics 2017 will examine the biomass potention of wood thinnings.

Session 1 addresses climate change, land availability and biomass potential. Bioenergy can act as a dispatchable energy source alternative to fossil fuels and nuclear power, with the potential to contribute to a future low carbon European energy provision. In order to achieve the greatest reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, the bioenergy feedstock should be composed of woody plant thinnings and residues as a result of forest management, as well as second generation bioenergy crops. These include short rotation forestry, coppiced woodland and perennial grasses. To aid in achieving the pledge by European nations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80% between 1990 and 2050, it is essential a sustainable, low greenhouse gas biomass feedstock is used. Such a feedstock can also feed into other strands of the bio-economy, further cutting greenhouse gas emissions.

Commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions mean fossil fuels must be phased out, coupled with investment in renewable alternatives. The growth of biomass feedstock is limited by land area and net primary productivity. When taking into account an increasing global human population, the cultivation of first generation bioenergy crops as a bioenergy feedstock introduces a food against fuel trade-off. Intensive farming practises associated with these food crops as well as indirect land use change results in little reduction of greenhouse gas emissions relative to the utilisation of thinnings and residue from forest management and second generation lignocellulosic bioenergy crops. The potential to grow these crops on marginal lands without increasing agronomic inputs means the use of non-food second generation bioenergy crops will not compete with food production.

A shift from an oil based economy towards the bio-economy using a low greenhouse gas biomass feedstock therefore has the potential to meet surges in energy demand without competing with food production and reducing greenhouse gas emissions crucial for the mitigation of climate change.

We hope to be livestreaming some sessions and filming others. For more information closer to the date, follow @botanyone on Twitter.

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