Agronomic, Energetic and Environmental Aspects of Biomass Energy Crops Suitable for Italian Environments

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Salvatore L. Cosentino *
Venera Copani
Cristina Patanè
Mariadaniela Mantineo
Giuseppina M. D’Agosta
(*) Corresponding Author:
Salvatore L. Cosentino | mikimos@mac.com

Abstract

The review, after a short introduction on the tendencies of the European Community Policy on biomasses, describes the agronomic, energy potential and environmental aspects of biomass crops for energy in relation to the research activity carried out in Italy on this topic, differentiating crops on the basis of the main energy use: biodiesel and bioethanol (which refers to “first generation biofuel”), heat and electricity. Currently, many of the crops for potential energy purposes are food crops (wheat, barley, corn, rapeseed, soybean, sunflower, grain sorghum, sugar beet) and their production may be used as biofuel source (bioethanol and biodiesel) since their crop management aspects are well known and consequently they are immediately applicable. Other species that could be used, highly productive in biomass, such as herbaceous perennial crops (Arundo donax, Miscanthus spp., cardoon), annual crops (sweet sorghum), short rotation woody crops (SRF) have been carefully considered in Italy, but they still exhibit critical aspects related to propagation technique, low-input response, harvest and storage technique, cultivars and mechanization. Crops for food, however, often have negative energetic indices and environmental impacts (carbon sequestration, Life Cycle Assessment), consequent to their low productivity. Conversely, crops which are more productive in biomass, show both a more favourable energy balance and environmental impact.

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