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Methane production through anaerobic digestion of various energy crops grown in sustainable crop rotations

Amon, T., Amon, B., Kryvoruchko, V., Machmüller, A., Hopfner-Sixt, K., Bodiroza, V., Hrbek, R., Friedel, J., Pötsch, E., Wagentristl, H.
Bioresource technology 2007 v.98 no.17 pp. 3204-3212
Zea mays, Helianthus annuus, biogas, corn, Secale cereale, methane, rye, Triticum aestivum, anaerobic digestion, winter wheat, biomass, crop rotation, grasslands
Biogas production is of major importance for the sustainable use of agrarian biomass as renewable energy source. Economic biogas production depends on high biogas yields. The project aimed at optimising anaerobic digestion of energy crops. The following aspects were investigated: suitability of different crop species and varieties, optimum time of harvesting, specific methane yield and methane yield per hectare. The experiments covered 7 maize, 2 winter wheat, 2 triticale varieties, 1 winter rye, and 2 sunflower varieties and 6 variants with permanent grassland. In the course of the vegetation period, biomass yield and biomass composition were measured. Anaerobic digestion was carried out in eudiometer batch digesters. The highest methane yields of 7500-10200 m(N)³ ha⁻¹ were achieved from maize varieties with FAO numbers (value for the maturity of the maize) of 300 to 600 harvested at “wax ripeness”. Methane yields of cereals ranged from 3200 to 4500 m(N)³ ha⁻¹. Cereals should be harvested at “grain in the milk stage” to “grain in the dough stage”. With sunflowers, methane yields between 2600 and 4550 m(N)³ ha⁻¹ were achieved. There were distinct differences between the investigated sunflower varieties. Alpine grassland can yield 2700-3500 m(N)³ CH₄ ha⁻¹. The methane energy value model (MEVM) was developed for the different energy crops. It estimates the specific methane yield from the nutrient composition of the energy crops. Energy crops for biogas production need to be grown in sustainable crop rotations. The paper outlines possibilities for optimising methane yield from versatile crop rotations that integrate the production of food, feed, raw materials and energy. These integrated crop rotations are highly efficient and can provide up to 320 million t COE which is 96% of the total energy demand of the road traffic of the EU-25 (the 25 Member States of the European Union).