Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Making MAGIC

Industrial crops are valuable resources for high added value food products, as well as renewable by-products such as bioenergy.

The Centre for Renewable Energy Sources and Saving (CRES) thereby introduces the Marginal Lands for Growing Industrial Crops (MAGIC) Project, which aims to promote sustainable development in efficient and profitable industrial crops grown on marginal lands.

To achieve that an up-to-date database of existing resource-efficient industrial crops will be developed with information on their agronomic characteristics, input requirements, yield performance and quality traits for end-use applications.

CRES is the Greek organisation for Renewable Energy Sources (RES), Rational Use of Energy (RUE) and Energy Saving (ES) and has been appointed as the national co-ordination centre in its area of activity.

Founded in September 1987 by Presidential Decree, it is a public entity supervised by the Ministry of Environment and Energy and has financial and administrative independence.

Its main goal is the research and promotion of RES/RUE/ES applications at a national and international level, as well as the support of related activities, taking into consideration the principles of sustainable development.

Disused land for industrial crops

Several studies agree on the existence of approximately 1,350,000 hectares of land in Europe deemed less favourable for conventional agriculture. This land has been either abandoned because of its productivity, or it is used as grassland.

Current and future marginal lands in Europe facing natural constraints will be mapped, characterised and analysed in the development of best-practice options for industrial crops – the most promising of which will be identified, taking advantage of the profound experience of the consortium and in a multi-actor approach with stakeholders.

It has been estimated that as many as 2.5 million potentially contaminated sites exist across Europe, with management costs (81% only for remediation) of around €6.5bn per year.1 In the MAGIC project, contaminated and degraded soils will also be included as it is well documented that the proportion of these land types is increasing due to anthropogenic activities. Contaminated soils cannot be used for food or feed production for sanitary reasons, and thus provide great potential for the production of industrial crops and biomass for material or energy use.2

  1. Allen B, Kretschmer B, Baldock D, Menadue H, Nanni S and Tucker G. (2014) Space for energy crops – assessing the potential contribution to Europe’s energy future. Report produced for BirdLife Europe, European Environmental Bureau and Transport & Environment. IEEP, London
  2. Lewandowski I, Schmidt U, Londo M, Faaij (2006) The economic value of the phytoremediation function. Agricultural Systems, 89, 68-89

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AREAS OF EXPERTISE

Areas of expertise include:

  • The creation of new breeding tools and strategies towards better crop varieties;
  • The identification and optimisation of appropriate agronomic practices with limited input requirements; and
  • The development of suitable harvesting strategies and logistics to optimise the biomass supply-chains.

The impact of MAGIC will be maximised by integrating the sustainability aspects of the value chains. The success of industrial crops in EU regions will be analysed using technical, environmental, economic and social issues to produce policy recommendations and best-practice guidelines.

CRES is the official consultant of the Greek government on matters of RES/RUE/ES in national policy, strategy and planning. It undertakes applied research and develops economically viable and environmentally friendly technologies.

RESEARCH INTERESTS
  • To develop of an up to date database of existing resource-efficient industrial crops, which will provide information on their agronomic characteristics, input requirements, yield performance and qualitative traits for innovative bio-based applications;
  • To identify, through a multi-actor approach inclusive of stakeholders, the most promising industrial crops suitable for production on European land facing natural constraints;
  • To map, characterise and analyse projections of current and future marginal land in Europe facing natural constraints and provide a spatially explicit classification that will serve as a basis for developing sustainable best practice options for industrial crops in Europe;
  • To create new breeding tools and strategies towards better varieties of the selected industrial crops that will be resource-efficient and can be profitably cultivated on marginal land in Europe;
  • To identify and improve appropriate agronomic practices with limited input requirements for the selected resource-efficient industrial crops;
  • To develop suitable harvesting strategies and logistics for the selected industrial crops on marginal land so that the performance of the whole biomass supply chain is optimised;
  • To maximise the impact of MAGIC through the provision of objective information regarding all important sustainability aspects (covering environment, society and economy) of the value chains using scientific, transparent and reproducible methodologies;
  • To analyse success stories of the selected industrial crops in European regions, addressing technical, environmental, economic and social issues and to produce policy recommendations and best practice guidelines in order to promote the appropriate sourcing of renewable materials from marginal land at local/regional level; and
  • To develop, test and disseminate a Decision Support System (DSS) with the active involvement of farmers and other end users (industry and policymakers).
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