Biomass for the Future (BFF)
Towards new local, sustainable ligno-cellulosic biomass-based value chains in France
In the context of global warming and the eventual rarefaction of fossil fuel reserves, lignocellulosic biomass will provide a renewable source of energy, materials and chemicals (IEA Bioenergy, annual report 2009). Sustainable cropping systems based on C4 non-food grasses will constitute a main share of the dedicated biomass feedstock portfolio, along with various "green" waste- or by-products from agriculture, forestry, industry or households.
One advantage of dedicated biomass feedstock is that it can be produced locally, nearby its sites of transformation. However, since the industrial process is specific for each valorization, this requires a cluster of intertwined stakeholders in the vicinity of the production area in order to optimize the economics and the environmental benefits of the whole system.
At the moment, the development of dedicated biomass crops remains at its infancy. Two main reasons explain this unsatisfactory situation: For the farmer, there is a lack of end-users, agronomic and logistic know-how and adapted feedstock material. For the end-user, there is a lack of knowledge on potential end uses and biomass-conditioning procedures and supply and price remain unpredictable.
BFF will tackle these two challenges simultaneously.
Firstly, it focuses on the genomics-assisted breeding and agronomy of two species: Fiber-Sorghum, an annual high-yielding drought-tolerant grass adapted to southern Europe and miscanthus, a perennial grass adapted to more temperate climates, with a longer growing season and a lower dependence on fertilizers and phytochemicals than annual species. These crops have the advantage to combine high potential for yearly biomass production with a minimal impact on the environment. In addition, maize will be used as a model crop for comparative genomics.
Secondly, the development of local small- to medium-scale biomass-based industries should serve as a test case to overcome the technological, sociological and institutional obstacles for the development of future larger scale second-generation biofuel and biorefinery industries, which in turn will help to consolidate the local industry. This should create a positive impetus towards a widespread adoption of a knowledge-based bio-economy in France.