Biogas Production from Maize: Current State, Challenges and Prospects. 2. Agronomic and Environmental Aspects

Herrmann, A.
March 2013
BioEnergy Research;Mar2013, Vol. 6 Issue 1, p372
Academic Journal
Several European countries have expanded the traditional use of anaerobic digestion, i.e. waste treatment, to energy generation through attractive incentives. In some countries, it is further promoted by additional payments to generate biogas from biomass. This review aims to summarise agronomic aspects of methane production from maize, to address resulting abiotic environmental effects and to highlight challenges and prospects. The opportunities of biogas production are manifold, including the mitigation of climate change, decreasing reliance on fossil fuels and diversification of farm income. Although the anaerobic digestion of animal manure is regarded as the most beneficial for reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emission from manure storage, the energy output can be substantially enhanced by co-digesting manure and maize, which is the most efficient crop for substrate provision in many regions. Although first regarded as beneficial, the rush into biogas production strongly based on maize ( Zea mays ssp. mays) is being questioned in view of its environmental soundness. Main areas of concern comprise the spatial concentration of biogas plant together with the high amount of digestate and resulting pollution of surface and ground water, emission of climate-relevant gases and detrimental effects of maize cultivation on soil organic matter degradation. Key challenges that have been identified to enhance the sustainability of maize-based biogas production include (1) the design of regionally adapted maize rotations, (2) an improved management of biogas residues (BR), (3) the establishment of a more comprehensive data base for evaluating soil C fluxes in maize production as well as GHG emissions at the biogas plant and during BR storage and (4) the consideration of direct and indirect land use change impact of maize-based biogas production.


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