On the 27th of September Bioenergy Association of Ukraine co-organized a Workshop “Agricultural residues for bioenergy. Problems and solutions” along with Partners for International Business project: Biobased Energy Ukraine, the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Ukraine, State Agency for Energy Efficiency and Energy Saving of Ukraine (SAEE).
The workshop brought together about 80 participants, including representatives of agricultural companies, academic institutions, municipalities, governments, financial institutions, consulting organizations, businesses, media and was dedicated to the use of crop residues for bioenergy without harming the soil.
The Workshop was opened by the Head of the State Agency of Energy Efficiency and Energy Saving of Ukraine Sergii Savchuk, who noted the significant development of renewable energy sector in Ukraine in recent years as a positive trend in the transition to energy independence. Also, the Head of SAEE spoke about close cooperation with the Netherlands, where bioenergy plays a significant role in primary energy supply from renewable sources, as well as about legislation already in place in Ukraine to support the development of the bioenergy sector.
Agricultural Counselor of the Embassy of the Netherlands in Ukraine Carolien Spaans in her opening word noted that strong partner in the bilateral cooperation between the Netherlands and Ukraine in the bioenergy sector. Ms. Spaans stressed that as the signatories of the Paris Agreement, the Netherlands and Ukraine share the same goal - to increase the share of sustainable renewable energy consumption and not rely on the imports of natural gas. Also, the Counselor informed the participants about the recent publication of a report, which was developed by Wageningen University, Saxion University for applied science, Dutch Enterprise Agency and Dutch sustainable development. The report is about the trends and developments in the renewable energy sector in Ukraine. This study has a special focus on opportunities and threats for using biomass in the energy transition. In particular, there are limits to how much biomass can be taken from the land. A number of solutions are given in the report to alleviate the problem of land degradation. Among them are no-till planting, applying organic fertilizers and returning ash from straw burning to the field.
The expert of the Netherlands Enterprise Agency (RVO) Kees Kwant introduced the Workshop, as well as the Dutch Consortium "Biobased Energy Ukraine", which unites companies from the Netherlands to implement bioenergy projects in Ukraine. Kees Kwant made a brief overview of the current state of bioenergy development in Ukraine and the potential of biomass that could be involved in the energy balance of Ukraine. One of the largest shares of the biomass potential in Ukraine belongs, in particular, to crop residues, which are represented mainly by straw of cereals and corn stalks. Summing up, Kees Kwant reminded the participants the goal of the Workshop: to assess the status of the knowledge and practice on soil quality in relation to using crop residues in Ukraine; define knowledge gaps to effectively harmonize using crop residues while maintaining soil quality and identify scientific issues for further research in this direction.
The first speaker was Yuri Kryvda, Director of Cherkasy branch of State Institution "Soils Protection Institute of Ukraine", who told participants about the state of soils in Ukraine and, in particular, the tendency of soil fertility reduction as a consequence of reduced fertilization. According to Yuri Kryvda, without the use of fertilizers it is necessary to leave 100% of crop residues (straw, stalks) for the preservation of humus stocks, but applying fertilizers in the amount of NPK (45), it is possible to take up to 30% of the agricultural residues, and increasing the dose of fertilizer to the NPK (90), even up to 40% of agricultural residues may be taken from the field without damage to the soil.
Francisco J. Arriaga from the the Department of Soil Science at the University of Wisconsin-Madison presented a study conducted in the United States on the sustainable use of crop residues for bioenergy. Providing general recommendations, Mr. Arriaga, in particular, noted that the collection of agrarian biomass can be performed with minor impacts to soil and the environment when done properly: consider harvesting only a portion of the biomass and/or use cover crops to protect soil from erosion and provide organic carbon for soil health; substitute crop nutrients taken by part of crop residues with commercial fertilizers or manures; rkeep in mind a greater risk for soil compaction due to the additional equipment traffic; use permanent bioenergy crops in sloping soils to avoid runoff and erosion.
Nicolae Scarlat from the Joint Research Centre (JRC) of the European Commission shared the results of the spatially explicit assessment of sustainable crop residues potentials in Europe. JRC is a science and knowledge service of the Commission that supports EU policies with independent evidence throughout the whole policy cycle. Nicolae Scarlat spoke about the significant growth of bioenergy in the EU from 74 million toe in in 2005 to 140 million toe in 2016, and about the expected contribution of biomass to the energy balance, which, according to the national renewable energy action plans, should for the EU reach in total 180 million toe in 2020 and 235-282 million toe in 2030. The crop residues potential is high, but at the same time it has a strong uncertainty, for example, for 2030 it will be 235-375 million toe, and especially in the long-term estimate by 2050 - 195-505 million toe. Based on the conducted research for the EU countries, as well as for Ukraine, the theoretical, technical, environmental and sustainable potentials of crop residues were determined. Among the recommendations provided, Nicolae Scarlat noted the need of sustainable crop residues removal, taking into account local conditions, peculiarities of different cultivars, competitive uses and annual yield variability, as well as the use of compensatory measures for maintaining soil fertility (green and mineral fertilizers, manure).
Jan Peter Lesschen from theWageningen University and Research, the Netherlands spoke about how the use of agricultural residues for bioenergy affects soil carbon and what possible solutions can be applied to maintain its proper level. In particular, Jan Peter Lesschen has announced strategies to minimize the loss of soil quality, including: no-till planting - without ploughing; harvesting straw only once every 2-3 years; planting a green manure crop after harvest; increase of crop yields; use of stems and leaves for the soil; application of other organic fertilizers (fdigestate, manure, etc.); collecting mostly corn stalks than wheat straw; return of ash after burning straw in boilers on the field; a requirement for farmers on balanced fertilisation.
Mykola Royik, the Director of the Institute of bioenergy crops and sugar beet of NAASU, Academician of NAAS of Ukraine spoke about the environmental aspects of growing bioenergy plants and the use of crop residues for biofuels. In particular, Mykola Royik noted that 11.4 billion UAH of fertilizer expenditures to compensate the removal of nutrients from 17.7 million tons of straw is sufficient for the annual establishment of 163 thousand hectares of miscanthus plantations.
Sandra Corsi from Plant Production and Protection Division of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) in her presentation "Crop Residue Management to Sustain Soil Productivity" spoke about the benefits of conservation agriculture and the fact that Ukraine annually loses 500 million tons of soil with 32.5 million hectares of arable land (15 t/ha/year of soil). In particular, Sandra Corsi mentioned the types of good crop residue management in terms of soil fertility, erosion, compaction, weed control and profit, which include no-till, multicrop rotation, contributing to a positive N balance, growing green-manure crops. Examples of poor management are the complete removal of crop residues, the mixing of crop residues with soil; the use of crop rotations that do not guarantee a positive N balance, and the C/N ratio of the decomposing residue is less or more than 25, which do not contribute to the accumulation of soil organic carbon, as in fallow-based crop and in maize (/barley - wheat) - soybean rotations.
Expert of the Research Centre for Engineering and Agro-Food Processing of the Council for Agricultural Research and Economics (CREA, Italy) Luigi Pari shared the information on possible measures to reduce the impact of crop residue removal on the example of wheat harvesting in Sweden and France. Luigi Pari said that depending on the type of combine - traditional or hybrid - the total number of crop residues available for collection was different. The combines used influenced the total amount of residues available for collection, with the hybrid system the collected product was only the 52%, while with the traditional combine the collected product was the 80,7%. Therefore, with the hybrid system a significant amount of straw (52%) is left in the field that can be considered a good compromise between “removed and left” organic matter from the field after wheat harvest and could be the way to balance the impact of residue removal.
The section of presentations was continued by a section of reactions from stakeholders, namely agroholdings, financing institutions and bioenergy business, represented by the Bioenergy Association of Ukraine. Stakeholders expressed interest in the information provided and agreed on the need to use crop residues on the basis of sustainability, as well as economic feasibility.
A discussion of positions on the use of crop residues without negative influence to the soil and proposals of issues for further research was held in the final part of the Workshop. The positions of the three groups that took part in the discussion coincided that when determining the locally permissible amount of crop residues collection, it is necessary to take into account the conditions of each specific land plot, namely, the soil organic matter content, the yield of the corresponding crop and the possibility of introducing the required amount of mineral and organic fertilizer.
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