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Straw is a scarce commodity and not waste – UFOP

The Union zur Förderung von Oel- und Proteinpflanzen e. V. (UFOP) has questioned the current EU political preference given to biofuels from residues wherever grain straw is involved as the feedstock source. Grain straw is scarce and its manifold uses make grain straw a sought-after resource, a commodity that is not to be had for nothing. In fact, in Germany, grain straw is traded in the range of EUR 95 to EUR 120 per tonne thus its use for biofuels will have to take a back seat, UFOP says.

Grain straw is scarce and its manifold uses makes it a sought-after resource, a commodity that is not to be had for nothing. According to the Union zur Förderung von Oel- und Proteinpflanzen e. V. (UFOP), in Germany, grain straw is traded in the range of EUR 95 to EUR 120 per tonne thus its use for biofuels will have to take a back seat (graphic courtesy UFOP).

Grain straw uses include the build-up of humus for climate protection and improvement of soil quality both in traditional and organic agriculture, structural feed, litter to meet increasing litter requirements, and expansion of crop rotation systems with leaf crops such as grain legumes.

According to UFOP, prices are on an upward trend, especially when weather conditions do not allow for straw bailing or straw yields are low anyway.

From UFOP’s point of view, grain straw is a soil structure improver that needs to go into the soil “carbon sink” to create stable humus. Also, UFOP has suggested that not enough attention is paid to production area requirements.

Inappropriate GHG value

The association has also challenged the alleged superiority of the greenhouse gas (GHG) balance of straw-based bioethanol over that of bioethanol from cultivated biomass. UFOP has argued that straw is a resource and not waste or residue and has a GHG value higher than  “0” g CO2/MJ.

UFOP suggests that it is “inappropriate” to give preference to grain straw as a biofuel feedstock with a GHG value of “0” g CO2/MJ. Expenses for crop production such as fertilizers, fuel, etc should be allocated to the respective shares of grain and straw in accordance with international life cycle assessment (LCA) standards.

The association has underlined the need for adjustments in the RED II, which directive is to be reviewed in the wake of the European Green Deal.

Protein should be credited

UFOP also sees the need for adjustments as regards rapeseed oil-based biofuels, arguing that the protein component should be credited to the biofuel share. UFOP has complained that policies virtually ignore the option to use such crediting to safeguard a market for the crops used in EU biofuel production, such as rapeseed, grain, maize, and sugar beet, and at the same time secure added value for agriculturists.

UFOP has called on the German government to create reliable framework conditions for biofuels from cultivated biomass that would obviously have to be based on requirements for sustainable crop production. Following the implementation of the RED, certification systems and procedures are now in place internationally to govern market access.

These legally binding standards are stricter than the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). They should also apply to biofuels from residues, the association has urged. UFOP expects that, due to the existing regulations, there will also be imports of residue-based biofuels from non-EU countries.

A round bale of cereal straw

According to the World Bioenergy Association (WBA) “Global Bioenergy Statistics 2019” report, utilizing the residues from all major crops for energy can generate approximately 4.3 billion tonnes (low estimate) to 9.4 billion tonnes (high estimate) annually around the world.

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