New workshop report published on novel crops and forestry species for industrial biomass

The Supergen Bioenergy Hub has published a new report on ‘Novel Crops and Forestry Species for industrial biomass’ featuring a list of potential novel biomass crops which could be deployed in the UK in the near future, gathered from stakeholders in the field.

In the transition to net zero, biomass has a critical role, and to support this it is likely additional biomass crops and forestry will be required. However, there are still knowledge gaps around which biomass crops and forestry species could be utilised in the future and what benefits and risk they will bring.

Energy grasses, black locust, eucalyptus, paulownia, cup plant, hemp and sphagnum moss were discussed in detail and collated into a comprehensive matrix table of information known about each novel biomass crop. The report shows that there is a critical role for UK commercial scale trails, together with the need for independent research and verification. Collaboration between industry, academia and government is crucial to moving forward the pathway for novel crops and forestry species for industrial biomass.

Download the full report here.

Rebecca Rowe from UK Centre for Ecology and Hydrology* who led on the work for the Supergen Bioenergy Hub shares her highlights from the report:

“A real diversity of novel crops and forestry species were identified within the workshop with contrasting agronomic needs and feedstock qualities. This provides opportunities for the UK biomass industry, expanding the “toolbox” of crops available to the sector. Such a range of options will be important in helping us to sustainably meet future demand for plant-based products and energy.

Sustainability and independent verification of data were key themes. Participants highlighted that fundamental to the development of novel biomass crops and forestry species is the quantification and management of the risks and benefits with commercial-scale UK trials widely seen as being invaluable in this process.

Key research needs covered both agronomic challenges and the development of end markets and products, with research on crop breeding, and the independent assessment of impacts on biodiversity, soil health and social carbon sequestration high on the agenda.

With a limited number of UK trials, amounts of feedstock to experiment with, and a restricted knowledge base, partnerships between industry, researchers and policymakers will be critical in delivering research. We hope that the connections made within this workshop will help to facilitate this process.”

*Rebecca Rowe from the UK Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (UKCEH), led on the work with the Supergen Bioenergy Hub bringing together a range of stakeholders including producers, end-users, policymakers, and researchers in a workshop to address these gaps. In total, 27 novel species were identified and considered suitable for deployment in the UK by workshop participants. Participants shared their knowledge on novel crops and forestry species, exploring the most promising novel biomass crops for the UK, as well as identifying the information needed for sustainable, large-scale crop deployment, who the key experts are in the field and research priorities for the future.

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