Scientific scope

Funding was provided for transnational research and development projects (R&D projects) which were selected within the framework of a competition. The scientific scope was divided into the following three subthemes:

Subtheme 1: Spatial targeting of land use to increase biomass production and transformation includes:

  • Developing a bio-based economy starts with optimising the yield of green (plant) biomass per unit area of land. New approaches for spatially targeting innovative agricultural production systems are needed to produce sufficient green biomass to meet increasing demand from strategically located, bio-refining chains producing bioenergy, a range of bio-based products and soil nutrients. The following are included:

    • High throughput phenotyping of appropriate species using plant biotechnology coupled to bioinformatics, quality assessment at the field/forest level and a selected process for each different use from the same batch of biomass.
    • Efficient exploitation of plant genetic resources and product-oriented breeding.
    • Integration of novel agronomic practices into agricultural systems, such as double cropping, improving yields of existing plant species and diversification of the outputs from different harvested parts of the plant to generate multiple uses for the various plant fractions.
  • Innovations in the design and siting of environmentally advanced, minimum waste biorefineries, associated with locally integrated production systems for food, feed, fibre and biomass for biorefining, making full use of agricultural and other organic products, by-products and wastes, as they cascade through the production and processing system, in order to better close the cycling of the major nutrients (N, P and K).

  • Integrated approaches, including the economic, environmental and social conditions necessary for the primary production of green biomass as part of the whole biomass production and processing chain. What are the optimal opportunities for transforming local biomass production in the field into food, feed, energy, and other bio-based products? Spatial strategic choices for novel agricultural systems concern the selection of the most appropriate plant and animal production combinations in terrestrial and aquatic systems or a mixture of both. What are the spatial consequences when primary biomass production for food, feed and fibre is combined with biomass transformation on farm or at landscape level into energy and other bio-based products?

  • Demonstrating how the resilience of agriculture and agro-forestry results from a range of spatial and temporal solutions across the same land area by exploiting variations in growing periods, from months for annual crops, up to decades for perennial species in short rotation coppices. What are the short (waste management) and long term (programming agricultural systems) perspectives?

  • How can biomass, including wastes and losses, and product expectations best be evaluated and modeled, using a systemic approach and how may these be assessed integrating social, economic and environmental perspectives including resilience and sustainability?

  • Evaluating the synergy between ecosystem services and biomass harvesting from locally specialised crops, including those adapted to marginal lands and semi-natural grasslands. How can bio-refining create high value products and bioenergy while at the same time enhancing the natural environment and biodiversity?

Subtheme 2: Developing markets, including:

  • Designing new business models for biomass production and its transformation requires the development of innovative marketing strategies taking into account the flexibility, the trade-offs and the risks associated with the emergence of new markets. How do these vary at local, national, European and global levels?

  • Conducting foresight exercises on the regulatory framework for integrated food and non-food agricultural systems associated with the sustainable intensification of green biomass production. The evolution of successful markets relies on a level regulatory playing field and fair trading conditions for new markets starting with clear definitions and rules on “waste”, “reusability of biomass products”, “manure”, etc. New potential markets for biomass production and transformation demand updated definitions. This implies a need for:

    • Transition paths to ensure economic viability throughout the transition phase. Development of farm decision support frameworks to identify specific opportunities and risks around adopting systems for greater resource use efficiency.
    • Analyses of business models for all stakeholders in the emerging value chains from farmers to agro-industrials: for example is there opportunity of reward for reducing GHG emissions along the chain? What is the impact of new markets on existing value chains? How will the market reflect the true cost and price of novel agricultural practices? How will any added-value in the chain be redistributed (across local areas)? How will the markets connect at local and global scales?

Subtheme 3: The sustainable intensification of integrated food and non-food systems of agriculture, including:

  • Development of system-based approaches for the integration of food and non-food agricultural production systems with improved use of nutrients, water and land under climate change, and improved soil fertility for higher resilience against climate stress. New models for mixed cropping systems for high biomass production including useful elements to create higher added value through the production and transformation of green biomass into novel products. Evaluating the benefit of introducing plant species with higher yields of biomass, including new species for biomass production.

  • Evaluation of the synergies and trade-offs between increasing yields and biomass production for food and non-food uses and the impacts on air quality, water quality, GHG emissions, biodiversity and other environmental outcomes. The development of sustainability indicators for different agricultural systems and a network of study sites across Europe to develop standardised sustainable intensification metrics applicable across a variety of integrated food and non-food systems.

  • Development of new agricultural systems in crop rotations to exploit seasonal growth cycles through intercropping, at farm level and at landscape scale, the integration of annual cropping with mixed perennial crops such as agroforestry that may lead to a broadening of the range of plant fractions to be delivered by agricultural and forestry systems. Demonstration of consequences of land use changes, for preservation of biodiversity while securing sufficient food and biomass production through the diversity of species and varieties grown and therefore agricultural products harvested.

  • How may the harvesting and increased use of biomass for biorefining in marginal agricultural areas and semi-natural grasslands create synergy between economic value addition and the preservation of High Nature Value areas?

  • How can the integrated modelling of water, biomass, bioenergy, food, and chemicals in the production and transformation of biomass follow the requirements of environmental sustainability (such as the closed cycling loops for N, P and K, water recycling, etc.)? How can sensitivity analysis of the variables reduce uncertainty in the models?

  • Systems approaches assessing novel utilisation of agricultural products and exploring their potential for value creation linking scientific-technical and socio-economic aspects.

  • Economic and environmental assessment of integrated food and biomass systems under different agro-ecological conditions and whole chain economic and environmental sustainability assessment of the cascading of agricultural products and other green biomass through the biorefinery system.