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Keywords:

  • acreage potential;
  • biomass production;
  • GIS ;
  • Miscanthus x giganteus;
  • perennial plant;
  • sustainability

Abstract

The European Union in general and Germany in particular want to lead the way to substantially expand renewable energies for power production. Considering the extremely ambitious objectives of the German Federal Government, a strong, nationwide increase in cultivating energy crops can be anticipated. However, the expansion of biomass production, which is already in progress, has led to several environmental and ecological objections. Aside from competing for land, for food and feed production, the expansion of monocultures for biomass and biofuel production with a concentration on maize (Zea mays) and rapeseed (Brassica napus) can be problematic for biodiversity conservation. To face these challenges, the provision and cultivation of additional crop species and cultivars for biomass production would help to avoid these problems. The designated energy crop Miscanthus × giganteus represents an alternative species for extended biomass production. This giant grass is characterized by a broad range of possible applications and a high potential in producing and providing biomass in a sustainable way. In our study, we conducted a Geographic Information System (GIS)-based analysis of the cultivation potential of M. giganteus in Germany. As a result, we generated digital maps that display preferential regions for the cultivation of M. giganteus where a high productivity and quality of biomass is expected. Combining different climate- and soil-dependent scenarios, a total acreage potential of 4 million ha is predicted for Germany.