PURESBio and ASHES: German-Brazilian collaboration projects
To ensure food security while also observing the goals of sustainability and global challenges, like climate change, increase in consumer demand for animal products or biomass demand for energy and materials, the implementation of optimised agricultural systems is indispensable. To avoid the increase in production at the expense of natural resources it is necessary to establish sustainable land use options. This encompasses processes that conserve resources as well as the environment, use modern cultivation practices, close nutrient loops and activate regional markets and flows of commodities. This is particularly important in regions with a high production potential – like Brazil.
To face these challenges, the projects “Process understanding and usage of residues for sustainable plant biomass production – PURESBio“ and “Investigation of the plant availability of the nutrients in modified ashes and slags – ASHES” were launched within the “Bioeconomy International” framework funded by the BMBF.
Fig. 2: Sugar mill in Goiás: Containers hold freshly harvested and cut sugar cane stalks
Projectcoordinator of both projects is Dr. Nicolai D. Jablonowski of the Institute of Bio- and Geosciences, Plant Sciences (IBG-2) at Forschungszentrum Jülich. Heads of the Institute are the JARA-ENERGY Members Prof. Ulrich Schurr and Prof. Björn Usadel and Prof. Michelle Watt.
In Brazil, approximately ten million hectares of sugarcane are cultivated annually, mostly used for bioethanol production. The quantities of biogenic residues generated during its production are enormous: Every litre of ethanol generates 5 litres of vinasse, a potassium-rich liquid that is used for fertigation. Further, each ton of sugarcane creates approximately 30 kilogramms of filter cake, a residue high in organic matter and major plant nutrients such as phosphorous and potassium.
Additionally, one hectare of sugar cane generates up to 15 tons of foliage and fibrous residues (bagasse) which is typically reused on location for heat generation. This burning process also results in up to five percent of ashes per ton of sugar cane, which in turn -again- contain high amounts of minerals with a high value as plant nutrients.
In collaboration with Brazilian and German partners from industry and research we aim to understand and optimize the reuse of these potentially valuable organic residues as part of two above mentioned projects with a total sum of about 3.2 Million Euro (840.000 € for the IBG-2, Forschungszentrum Jülich).
Fig. 7: Collecting basin for vinasse close to sugar cane plantation for use in fertigation
As the long term goal we want to contribute to establish optimised cultivation practices that incorporate the use of biogenic residues. Particular focus will be given to:
Understanding of processes: analyses of plant-soil interactions following application of residues and targeted modification of those residues aiming at increase in biomass production
Sustainable use of agricultural soils: the systematic study of the effect of residues on development of soil fertility and plant growth will deliver essential information concerning sustainable use of these agricultural soils for the production of energy plants
Development of technologies: transfer of existing non-invasive phenotyping technologies to sugar cane, development of technologies for distribution and incorporation of residues as fertilizers in sugar cane production
We expect to implement the new findings regarding the effects of residues and bagasse ashes as fertilizers, allowing us to develop recommendations not only for their use but also for targeted treatments of the residues. Thus, the compiled results on the effective use of plant residues-derived nutrients will help to reduce the dependency on cost-intensively produced mineral fertilizers and promote the closing of local nutrient loops.
Further information related to the BMBF-funded projects PURESBio und ASHES are available at the following links: