Supporting top fruit’s journey to net zero

What happens to an apple orchard when it reaches the end of its life is being investigated as part of a new research collaboration.

The work is centred around the use of rapid thermal decomposition method, pyrolysis, in dessert fruit orchards at the end of their productive cycles, as a sustainable alternative to the existing ‘grub and burn’ approach.

Not only will this reduce associated carbon emissions, but the resulting biochar has potential to be used as a soil improver to increase orchard yields and productivity.

The two-year feasibility study is being led by British Apples and Pears Ltd in partnership with Adrian Scripps Ltd, R E Collins Limited, Stocks Farm, H.L. Hutchinson Ltd, supported by the University of Edinburgh and Crop Health and Protection (CHAP).

Dr Katja Maurer, Innovation Sector Lead at CHAP, said: “Conventionally, orchards at the end of their production are processed by the most cost effective system – grubbing, where machinery is used to remove the trees; the fallen trunks, roots and debris are then burned

“Instead, there is the potential to use pyrolysis technology. The resulting biochar can then be fed back into the ground, offering both soil health benefits whilst contributing positively to the sustainability credentials of top fruit production. But, we don’t currently know the most effective way to achieve this across the whole industry.”

The project will investigate variables such as feedstock processing approaches, the type of pyrolysis used, business models for processing, and the impact of biochar on soil health.

Economic opportunities for growers will also be reviewed, to evaluate the potential use of carbon credits as a new revenue stream opportunity, to take advantage of emerging carbon markets.

Alison Capper of Stocks Farm, said: “Environmental sustainability is a key priority for British apple growers and our supply chains. Ensuring we minimise carbon emissions and lock-in carbon to production systems wherever we can is a major priority.

“In these uncertain economic times, making the most of all potential revenue streams will be essential for growers.

“Therefore, carbon improvement within supply chains, both off-setting and in-setting, could prove valuable in improving the economic resilience of our sector.”

The project is funded by Defra and UKRI through the Farming Innovation Programme (FIP).

For more information about this project, contact CHAP at enquiries@chap-solutions.co.uk or visit www.chap-solutions.co.uk