The ORCA Centres and Topics

ORCA Centres

The eleven ORCA Centres will cover 22 topics related to organic agriculture.

 

Agro-energy

The development of agro-energy in recent years has been one of rapid growth in Europe, Asia, and the Americas. However, it may be at the price of unsustainable plantations for bioethanol and biodiesel. Rather than using non-food agricultural products, first generation biofuels are made from crops that otherwise could be used as animal feed or human food. With the growing global population, new methods of obtaining agro-energy that do not cause food shortages and resource degradation must be developed. The second generation of agrofuels will feed on agricultural residues and forest biomass and may have fewer trade-offs.

While organic agriculture reduces the need for energy compared with conventional agriculture, energy is still needed for many purposes such as operating machinery and irrigation. Farmers would like to balance their energy production and consumption, and organic agroenergy may allow for a more positive balance since there are few alternatives for fuel besides biofuel. Beyond capturing the environmental savings from use of waste materials and natural resources to generate energy on farms, agro-energy can provide critical access to energy, heat, and cooking fuel for smallholder farmers while providing an income through organic agrofuel production and classic bioenergy (e.g. biogas, gas produced by the anaerobic breakdown of organic matter).

The potential of agro-energy within the context of organic systems remains a topic ripe for research and development should maximize opportunities without risking conflicting use of agricultural biomass (e.g. food, feed, energy, soil amendment). Producers interested in agro-energy are interested in the most energy positive sources of biomass, efficient methods of biogas conversion, and environmental change and stress. Currently, there has been a lot of interest in researching agro-energy sources; however, much of it is conventional. Organic research in the topic focuses on methods of obtaining large yields of biomass from crops.

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