Main research question/goal
The need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and the finite nature of fossil resources forces us to move more and more towards a bio-based economy. This biomass of vegetable origin can be used for the production of food, materials and energy. However, the available agricultural land is not unlimited and therefore the biomass must be produced and used as efficiently as possible. In this research we examine the current efficiency of plant production in Flanders in terms of energy and consumption of raw materials, and how this can be optimised. This research is related to the doctoral research on valorisation trajectories of crops (Anouk Mertens).Research approach
To evaluate the sustainability of vegetable production as a whole, energy and resource efficiency, economic efficiency and environmental impact of the studied systems are evaluated. This is done in part by using an exergetic life cycle assessment (ELCA). In this raw-material-driven life cycle analysis, all input and output streams of a process are expressed in the common unit 'Exergy' (see also ILVO research by Sophie Huysveld). In the first case, we evalute the cultivation of grain maize. Other crops such as Miscanthus and sugar beet are other cases to be evaluated. The differences in efficiency between rotation systems and monocultures are also weighed. For the different scenarios the loss of soil functionalities are evaluated. Because all inputs and outputs are expressed in the same unit, it is possible to identify the greatest losses and to propose possible improvements. This research is done in collaboration with the department 'ENVOC' (Prof Jo Dewulf, Ghent University) .Relevance/Valorisation
The results of this study can be used to lead further research into sustainable production within and outside of ILVO. This evaluation system can be used to help guide the entire Flemish agricultural industry in the evolution towards more sustainability.