The challenge-led MISCOMAR+ project extends evidence for Miscanthus as a leading perennial bioenergy crop for Marginal, Contaminated and industrially damaged Lands (MaCL) with novel Miscanthus hybrids bred for climate change resilience. Our consortium comprises Miscanthus breeders, agronomists, physiologists, soil scientists & biomass conversion engineers in the UK, Germany & Poland to deliver robust agronomies for crop establishment on challenging MaCL enabling intensive but sustainable biomass production, and innovative biorefinery options for the circular bioeconomy.
Miscanthus on MaCL is smart bioenergy because it uses land currently unsuitable for food production in the most sustainable way. Our approaches have potential to improve land economic productivity and ecosystem services. MISCOMAR+ combines learnings from FACCE SURPLUS calls 1 (MISCOMAR) and 2 (Supervalue) to maximize valorization.
We have identified three new trial sites affording different marginality factors and taken soil cores from the first two, which have been characterised for pH, texture, and nutrients. We have generated 6300 plug plants for these trials [[figureRep1]], and determined planting plans and block placements that mitigate impacts of factors such as heterogeneous soil profiles and tree shading. Biochar has been generated and is ready to ship for one of these trials. The characteristics of this biochar were determined based on the soil profile of the trial site it will be used at. Additional treatments will include different planting dates, different mulches, and environmental pre-treatments for hardening before transplanting. These treatments are designed to improve the sustainability and resilience of Miscanthus production.
We are continuing long term trials on MaCL and using the biomass in innovative biomass values chains i.e. 1) gasification with residue recovery and 2) ‘grass’ paper.
Thermodynamic equilibrium simulations for the gasification campaign have been started for (1) above, and software purchased for thermochemical equilibrium modelling. Preparation of a lab-scale HM leaching and recovery experiment (additional work) is on-going.
The contract for paper production for (2) is signed and includes a pretreatment.
Environmental, social, and economic sustainability of MISCOMAR+ value chains will be evaluated with standard LCA approaches using real data. The expected overarching outcome from MISCOMAR+ is that Miscanthus biomass produced on MaCL can meet commercially attractive biomass yield levels and quality thresholds for conversion to specific bio-based products which can be used to replace non-renewable and less sustainable alternatives.
Our valorization plan benefits from SME members Terravesta Ltd, TerrAffix Soil Solutions Ltd, and Gießereitechnik Kühn who will provide access to their extensive facilities and stakeholder end-user networks and events. The academics will disseminate project successes through newsletters, website, conferences, and popular media to improve societal understanding of sustainable bioenergy and its multiple benefits. MISCOMAR+ members will provide evidence for expert consultations by farming and industrial associations, environment groups and policy makers.
MISCOMAR+ drives innovation for a number of new technologies at TRL 3-5, which can rapidly move to TRL 6-9 through our SME partners. Research translation from this project can deliver on most UNEP SDG’s, particularly 7, 8, 13 & 15.