Examining alternative bioenergy crops

The financial viability of two potential bioenergy crops is explored in a recently published research paper by Dr Laura Cumplido-Marin.

Dr Cumplido-Marin is CHAP’s Technical Liaison Officer based at Cranfield University – the institution where she investigated the topic as part of her PhD.

The paper entitled ‘Comparative economics of Sida hermaphrodita (L.) Rusby and Silphium perfoliatum L. as bioenergy crops in Europe’, can now be viewed on peer-reviewed open-access site, ScienceDirect.

For the research, Dr Cumplido-Marin used a discounted cash flow analysis to compare the net present values of Sida (Virginia fanpetals / Virginia mallow) and Silphium (rosinweed), against a rotation of other arable crops including maize, and two short rotation energy crops coppice and miscanthus.

Analysis was completed for the UK, Italy, Germany and Poland to produce four models, with results showing that growing Sida without subsidies is not viable compared to other cropping options. Contrary to this, Silphium was shown to be economically viable in all four countries.

Dr Cumplido-Marin said: “The profitability of each crop could be further improved if additional payments for such public services were made to farmers, and if secure markets were established for the sale of the biomass.

“Importantly, both Sida and Silphium offer greater environmental benefits than other arable crops, which is an important area that could be explored further when ascertaining their viability.

“I’m delighted to have the paper published, as it takes a lot of work and effort to achieve.”

The research was supported by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme, alongside Defra.

Prior to her PhD, Dr Cumplido-Marin completed an MEng in Forestry at the University of Cordoba in Spain, and an MSc in Renewable Energy Technologies at Cranfield University. She also holds an undergraduate degree in Agriculture from the University of La Rioja, Spain.

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Please note, the opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of CHAP.