The influence of organic and inorganic fertiliser application rates on UK biomass crop sustainability

P. Gilbert, P. Thornley, A.B. Riche

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Bioenergy and energy crops are an important part of the UK’s renewable energy strategy to reach its greenhouse gas reduction target of 80% by 2050. Ensuring the sustainability of biomass feedstocks requires a greater understanding of all aspects of energy crop production, their ecological impacts and yields. This work compares the life-cycle environmental impact of natural gas and biomass from two energy crop systems grown under typical UK agronomic practice. As reported in previous studies the energy crops provide significant reductions in global warming potential (GWP) compared to natural gas. Compared to no fertiliser application, applying inorganic fertiliser increases the GWP by 2% and applying sewage sludge increases the GWP by a lesser extent. In terms of an equivalent GWP savings per unit area of land, the emissions associated with fertiliser production and application can be offset by a yield increase of <0.2 t/ha. However, very large increases in eutrophication and acidification levels are incurred compared to the natural gas reference case when applying either fertiliser. For sewage sludge the impact of varying the allocation factor between the function of wastewater treatment and that of crop growth is also illustrated.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1170-1181
JournalBiomass and Bioenergy
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2011


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