The merging of the Institute of Grassland and Environmental Research (IGER) with the Aberystwyth University will see the new Institute of Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences (IBERS) take "Profitable Farming with a Greener Future" as its main theme at the Grassland and Muck 2008 event.
Breeding programmes of forage grasses and clovers at IBERS are focused on the need to increase the efficiency of grassland agriculture. The main exhibit at Grassland and Muck 2008 will look at ‘Food and Fuel’ and show grassland farmers that livestock farming and growing crops for biofuel can co-exist and provide them with an extra source of revenue.
"IBERS will be providing information on its research outputs, with particular reference to the food or fuel conundrum" said IBERS Agriculture Outreach Manager, Dave Davies, as he and the IBERS team look forward to the event to be held at Stoneleigh Park, Warwickshire Wednesday 21st and Thursday 22nd May.
"The IBERS exhibit will show how grassland can provide both feed for ruminants and feed for fermentations that lead to biofuel or biorenewable replacements for the petrol chemicals industry".
IBERS, in collaboration with a range of partners, is looking at the feasibility of using perennial ryegrass for ethanol production. This could be a potential new source of income for farmers, without causing conflict with the food industry. Above all else, it could give greater flexibility for grassland farmers.
Another option, of course, can be growing biomass products such as short rotation coppiced willow and miscanthus, but researchinto the production of renewable ethanol at IBERS could also revolutionise grassland farming in the UK.
Scientists will be on hand to outline the contribution that biomass can play in reducing carbon emissions and meeting our future energy, heat and electricity, and industrial material needs in a sustainable way.
"The ambitious targets for reduction of CO2 emissions suggest that bioenergy crops are currently the only realistic option, and, in the greater part of the UK, that could mean focusing on grassland areas," said Dr Iain Donnison, Leader of the Bioenergy and BioRenewables Programme at IBERS.
"Whilst much of the previous research in the field of renewable ethanol has focused on fermenting starch from maize, perennial ryegrass would be a better option for the UK because it can be grown on land that’s unsuitable for other crops and so does not tie up areas that are needed for food production or animal feed production," he added.
Scientists from the Institute’s Grassland Development Centre will be available to highlight the high sugar varieties of ryegrass and forage legumes, which also reduce greenhouse gas and ammonia emmisions.
"Work on genetic improvements of perennial ryegrass and red clover to reduce nitrogen losses to water from pastures and silo features prominently, as does making the most of natural manures," said IBERS plant breeding and genetics specialist, Mike Abberton.
"Increasing the efficiency of rumen processes can lead to reduced emissions to the atmosphere of ammonia and the powerful greenhouse gases, methane and nitrous oxide," according to Senior Extension Officer, Heather McCalman. "Animal manures can also play a vital role on the farm because they contain valuable plant nutrients such as nitrogen, potassium, sulphur and phosphorus. It makes sound economic sense to conserve and exploit these nutrients rather than letting them go to waste and running the risks of air and water pollution."
"There will also be the opportunity to investigate the potential value to farmers of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) for Agriculture and Environmental mapping. Scientists at Aberystwyth University have joined forces with Boeing, Qinetiq, and the Welsh Assembly Government to develop a project which involves flying Unmanned Aerial Vehicles with a three metre wingspan over field plots, and collecting information from a range of sensors, concentrating on the use of hyperspectral cameras.
A full-scale UAV will feature prominently on the IBERS stand. The technology can be used to monitor biodiversity of grass swards, for early warning of crop disease, to estimate fertiliser requirements, and with other possibilities such as drought monitoring and pollution control.
"The key focus is to give grassland farmers more options in a changing world and show how grasslands in the future could provide both food and fuel," said Dave Davies.
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