Bioenergy benefits for farmers
As we transition into a post-petroleum era the farmers of our land are in a position to grow plants which will be the future feedstocks for the bio-based chemicals and materials that will replace current petroleum based products. The biomass can be a significant source of revenue thus improving farm business resilience.
A well designed shelterbelt can be a source of revenue as well as providing best pracice shelter for stock and crops. Traditional one row shelterbelts of long rotation species such as macrocarpa are inefficient and become a cost at their end of life. When an old shelterbelt is removed there is then at least a 10-15 year wait before new trees can provide shelter. With a well designed three row managed shelterbelt using a mix of short and long rotation species can turn the shelterbelt into a revenue stream . This assists farmers to become fuel plus food producers with improved farm business resilience because the food and energy products are in different markets.
Fast growing species such as miscanthus gigantus make an ideal shelterbelt on farms with elevated mobile irrigators. The miscanthus is low enough that it doesnt interfere with the boom irrigator. Miscanthus is also an annual so can be cropped each year to provide biomass for energy production.
Most agricultural crops have harvest or processing residues which can be used as a source of energy. Maize or corn stover is used extensively in the United States of America as a source of liquid or solid biofuel. The Maize stove can be processed to be a fuel for use in process heat boilers or can be used as a feedstock for the production of a transport biofuel.
Farmers can grow woodlots on parts of the 8% of a farm that is often not productive or suitable for normal farm operations. If this is steep slopes then the species will be a long rotation one as harvesting is often costly because of the difficult terrain. If the land is flatish then crops such as miscanthus can be grown as an energy crop. The miscanthus can be processed into a solid biofuel to replace coal in process heat boilers or it can be used as a feedstock for the production of transport biofuels.
The effluent from dairy cows that accumulates in milking sheds or stand off pads is normally collected and spread back on the farm as as a bio-fertiliser. If this disposal method cant be used then the effluent can be processed by anaerobic digestion to produce biogas and high value bio-fertiliser. The biogas can be used on a farm to produce electricity, heat. cooling or used as a fuel in diesel vehicle engines. The bio-fertiliser can be dried and sold as a high value revenue stream.
Most farms abut waterways and are planting riparian strips to absorb nitrogen run off to stop it going into the waterway. If planted so that some plants can be selectively harvested then this can be a source of revenue.