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Research project "Biomass from short rotation forestry"

The research project “Biomass from short rotation forestry” was kicked off during a planting campaign on 29th April in Buchen-Oberneudorf (administrative district of Neckar-Odenwald). The objective of the project is to establish an area of 150 ha for fast-growing trees and Miscanthus in Baden-Württemberg between 2008 and 2012 and thus advance the expansion of renewable energies.

Miscanthus x giganteus, sometimes also called Elephant Grass, can be used for many things. At present, it is mainly used to produce energy. © Wikipedia/Flickr

"The expansion of renewable energies is one of the most important future issues for the state of Baden-Württemberg. Fast-growing trees and Miscanthus may be able to efficiently contribute to supplementing existing biomass potential. However, it is still early days. The project entitled "Biomass from short rotation forestry" will look into the opportunities and risks and provide important results for practical application," said the Baden-Württemberg Minister of Nutrition and Rural Areas, Peter Hauk, speaking at a planting campaign in the city of Buchen-Oberneudorf.

"Only one quarter of the primary energy used in Germany is produced here. With regard to safeguarding the supply of energy, we have to find a broader basis for energy production. Taking into consideration climate change and its consequences, energy will have to be produced with renewable resources," said Hauk. The security of energy supplies and the reduction of greenhouse gases can only be achieved through a comprehensive energy political approach. A central aspect is the increase in energy efficiency and the expansion of renewable energy supplies. 

Biomass for the production of energy and materials

Hauk also said that these ambitious goals can only be reached if the huge hidden potential of energy and material use of biomass is increasingly mobilised and used in an efficient manner. "Due to its broad spectrum of applications, wood traditionally plays a major role in the production of energy, as a construction material for making houses, furniture packaging, paper, etc. Another important perspective might be the production of synthetic biofuels," emphasised the Minister.

In order to avoid supply bottlenecks due to a continuously increasing demand for biomass, especially wood, and to also safeguard sustainability, further potential must be tapped. Fast-growing trees such as poplars and willows as well as Miscanthus might in future become such raw material sources. However, at the moment, Baden-Württemberg does not have sufficient practical experience in growing and using these plants.
"We hope to clarify unanswered questions through a comprehensive research and development programme. A central part and the first step of this programme is the consultation and support of producers cultivating around 150 ha of land. At the same time, we will also investigate the use of the wood for material and energy use, as well as looking into harvesting and transport technologies," said Minister Hauk, outlining the measures planned by the Baden-Württemberg government. These measurements are being coordinated by the Agricultural Technology Centre in Augustenberg and the Forest Research Institute (FVA) in Freiburg.

Project priorities

The goal of the research project "Biomass from short rotation forestry" is to establish an area of 150 ha for the cultivation of fast-growing trees and Miscanthus in Baden-Württemberg between 2008 and 2012. The major priorities of the projects are:

  • Investigations into production technology, yield prognosis, business statistics
  • Investigation into environmental effects
  • Consumer protection through the surveillance of the quality of the plants
  • Competent advice to support the growers
  • Cultivation optimisation of biomass with regard to economic and ecological factors.

Additional information

Short rotation forestry (SRF)
This is the practice of cultivating and using fast-growing trees that reach their optimal economic size quicker than normal, i.e. within two to 20 years. These short cultivation times are made possible through the selection of fast-growing trees that reach their growth potential within a few years and regenerate after felling. After felling, SRF trees are either replaced by new plantations, or, more commonly, allowed to regenerate from the stumps as coppice. SRF is currently used for two product lines. First, the production of wood chips or pellets for the production of energy, and second, the use of the wood for the production of cellulose or wood-based materials. Particular species used include poplars and willows.

Miscanthus (Miscanthus x giganteus)
Miscanthus is a perennial grass that originates from Asia and can grow to heights of up to four metres. The shoot dies during the winter. The grass is not harvested in the first year; from the second year onwards, harvesting takes place as late as possible before the grass sprouts again (March/April). The grass is chaffed by harvesting machines and pressed into bales. Theoretically, the grass can be used for a broad range of applications (e.g., insulation boards, packaging material, cellulose), and is now increasingly used for energy production.

Website address: https://www.biooekonomie-bw.de/en/articles/pm/research-project-biomass-from-short-rotation-forestry