Assessment of sequential cropping

For low ILUC risk biomethane production

Published: 01/02/2017

In Europe, agricultural land is usually fallow during winter time. In a sequential cropping scheme, a winter cover crop is cultivated in addition to the usual summer crop. For the Italian Biogas Consortium (CIB), Ecofys assessed the impacts of this practice and found that agricultural crop yields can increase dramatically without negative environmental impacts if sequential cropping is introduced.

The assessment addressed how much additional biomass is produced and to what extent positive or negative impacts occur on soil nutrients, soil erosion, water availability, on-farm biodiversity and the carbon balance. The team furthermore investigated whether sequential cropping has a positive business case and whether it could be scaled up in other regions. The focus was set on the combination of maize silage as a summer crop (for animal feed) and triticale silage as an additional winter crop (for biogas) in the Po-valley in northern Italy.

Our results show that this agricultural system is promising in all respects: increasing crop yields for animal feed and additional biogas feedstock without displacing existing feed production or other negative environmental impacts, while providing additional income to farmers. A growing number of Italian dairy farmers start to adopt the practice, which they coined ‘Biogasdoneright’. It allows them to contribute positively to the energy transition in an agricultural sustainable way.