The UK could see up to 20% of its farmland planted with willow or miscanthus to meet biofuel demand, the BA Festival of Science was told in York, according to Clive Cookson writing for the Financial Times.
The government’s Rural Economy and Land Use (RELU) programme estimates that 15-20 per cent of Britain’s agricultural land may have to be devoted to growing biofuels to meet international obligations to reduce carbon emissions and improve energy security.
The two main candidate crops are willow coppice, harvested every three years, and miscanthus, a fast-growing Asian grass harvested annually in late winter or spring. Farmers would grow these on poor quality arable land, said Angela Karp of Rothamsted Research, RELU energy crops co-ordinator.
Crops such as these would be burnt for energy in the short term, in the longer term they would be good sources of cellulose for second generation biofuels, says Cookson.
There is more chance that the British, (a nation addicted to not having things in its back yard like motorways, industrial sites, railways, nuclear power stations and many of the other trappings of civilised society) might go for this especially since miscanthus looks like the kind of long-stemmed grass which grows in the bottom of derilict rural canals, and willow is the best material for making cricket bats.