04 Apr 2011 12:04:02
Energy crops 'can be grown sustainably in the UK'
New research suggests planting energy crops on unused agricultural land could allow England to reach renewable power targets with little effect on the food industry.
Published in Biofuels, the study by the UK Energy Research Centre looks at the cultivation of short-rotation coppice energy crops, such as willow and poplar, within current planning constraints.
It found if unused agricultural land is used efficiently, biomass capable of meeting four percent of the UK's energy demand could be produced, without disruption to the environment and food production.
Over 39 percent of land in England is unsuitable for energy crops, either due to environmental or legislative restrictions.
However, the poor-grade land in the south-west and north-west was said to be ideal for short-rotation crops. These two areas alone were said to have the potential to generate one-third of the four percent target.
Gail Taylor, professor of plant biology from the University of Southampton, said the study shows biomass plants can "be grown sustainably" in some areas of the country. Work is now being done to determine how climate could affect this supply.
By 2020, the government believes that biomass heat and power could potentially provide 30 percent of the UK's 15 percent renewable energy target.