Impact of Spatio-Climatic Variability on Environment-Hosted Land-based Renewables: Microclimates

Lead Research Organisation: Rothamsted Research
Department Name: Sustainable Soils and Grassland Systems

Abstract

Many current or projected future land-based renewable energy schemes are highly dependent on very localised climatic conditions, especially in regions of complex terrain. For example, mean wind speed, which is the determining factor in assessing the viability of wind farms, varies considerably over distances no greater than the size of a typical farm. Variations in the productivity of bio-energy crops also occur on similar spatial scales. This localised climatic variation will lead to significant differences in response of the landscape in hosting land-based renewables (LBR) and without better understanding could compromise our ability to deploy LBR to maximise environmental and energy gains. Currently climate prediction models operate at much coarser scales than are required for renewable energy applications. The required downscaling of climate data is achieved using a variety of empirical techniques, the reliability of which decreases as the complexity of the terrain increases. In this project, we will use newly emerging techniques of very high resolution nested numerical modelling, taken from the field of numerical weather prediction, to develop a micro-climate model, which will be able to make climate predictions locally down to scales of less than one kilometre. We will conduct validation experiments for the new model at wind farm and bio-energy crop sites. The model will be applied to the problems of (i) predicting the effect of a wind farm on soil carbon sequestration on an upland site, thus addressing the question of carbon payback time for wind farm schemes and (ii) for predicting local yield variations of bio-energy crops. Extremely high resolution numerical modelling of the effect of wind turbines on each other and on the air-land exchanges will be undertaken using a computational fluid dynamics model (CFD). The project will provide a new tool for climate impact prediction at the local scale and will provide new insight into the detailed physical, bio-physical and geochemical processes affecting the resilience and adaptation of sensitive (often upland) environments when hosting LBR.
 
Description We were able to upscale and test the bioenergy crop model for Miscanthus in collaboration with Natural England using a survey and remote sensing approach to validate the outcome. The result has been published in a paper in Biomass and Bioenergy (doi: 10.1016/j.biombioe.2015.12.024) and also presented in an international conference (Living Planet Symposium 2016 in Prague). We proposed a systematic integration of mapped information fit for estimating obtainable yields using an empirical model, observed on-farm yields and remote sensing, which enabled us to identify the sources of yield variation and supply uncertainty. The average yield gap on clay soils was much larger than that on sandy or loamy soils (37% vs 10%). Miscanthus is noticeably slower to establish on clay soils as shown by fitting a logistic equation to yield time series. However, gaps in crop cover as identified by density counts, visual inspection (Google Earth) and remote sensing (Landsat-5) correlated with observed on-farm yields suggesting patchiness as causal for reduced yields. The analysis shows ways to improve the agronomy for these new crops to increase economic returns within the supply chain and the environmental benefits (reduced GHG emission, greater carbon sequestration) and reduce the land demand of bio-energy production.
Exploitation Route The findings were continued in a joint project with Imperial College, supporting a PhD thesis under Climate-KIC programme providing resource estimates for the bioeconomy (PhD Yuanzhi Ni) and a paper has been published in the BioFPR journal (https://doi.org/10.1002/bbb.1966;)
Sectors Agriculture, Food and Drink,Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Energy,Environment,Manufacturing, including Industrial Biotechology

 
Description The project outputs have been used in feedback activities within the farm survey community and collaborators (e.g. Natural England). Further activities with Satellite Applications Catapult were fed into a Follow-on proposal which unfortunately failed because of a lack of commercialisation and KEC support due to multiple commitments. A collaboration with Prof Martin Wooster will be picked up and expanded under the new ASSIST joint strategic program between NERC/CEH and Rothamsted Research (grant approved).
First Year Of Impact 2014
Sector Agriculture, Food and Drink,Energy,Environment
Impact Types Economic

 
Description Biomass Value Chain Modelling
Amount £148,000 (GBP)
Organisation Energy Technologies Institute (ETI) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 01/2011 
End 12/2012
 
Description Evaluation of on-farm energy crop yields in collaboration with Natural England, European Space Agency and U of Edinburgh 
Organisation European Space Agency
Country France 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution In the UK most of the biomass crops (Miscanthus and SRC) are administered through Natural England (NE) in the Energy Crop Scheme (ECS). Yield data out of the ECS present a unique asset to evaluate large scale modelling and estimate the yield gap. In collaboration with NE we selected sites to evaluate the process-based crop model for simulating topographic (climatic) effects on crop performance. To evaluate regional climatic effects we sent out a series of questionnaires since summer 2011 in two successive short-term appointments. We distributed a 1st draft report and invited NE for discussion in spring 2012 with the conclusion to intensify the survey. Since autumn 2012 we have upgraded the data base and a report is being drafted. Data from about 1000 ha of Miscanthus show a highly variable yield (9.3 +/-3 t/ha) in their 5th harvest year. These data are being compared to NDVI derived from Landsat data.
Collaborator Contribution Natural England organised the distribution of a series of questionnaires to farmers under the Energy Crop Scheme. Members of Natural England also organised some on-farm/field meetings to survey the planting/production success European Space Agency provided Landsat-5 TM scenes for September 2011 to derive NDVI for the on-farm experimental sites and farmers fields, for which a series of respective plant cover and yield data were available. University of Edinburgh (School of Geo Sciences) supervised a student (A Barker) in the pursuit of her MSc in Environmental Protection and Management, within which land cover and NDVI for fields within the Energy Crop Scheme were compared in 2011/12. On the basis of that MSc on-farm yield data and NDVI were compared later on in the project (2013).
Impact - report to Natural England - poster presentation at British Soil Science Society meeting in Lancaster in 2013 - Invited presentation at the 22nd European Biomass Conference and Exhibition in Hamburg, Germany, June 2014
Start Year 2011
 
Description Evaluation of on-farm energy crop yields in collaboration with Natural England, European Space Agency and U of Edinburgh 
Organisation Natural England
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution In the UK most of the biomass crops (Miscanthus and SRC) are administered through Natural England (NE) in the Energy Crop Scheme (ECS). Yield data out of the ECS present a unique asset to evaluate large scale modelling and estimate the yield gap. In collaboration with NE we selected sites to evaluate the process-based crop model for simulating topographic (climatic) effects on crop performance. To evaluate regional climatic effects we sent out a series of questionnaires since summer 2011 in two successive short-term appointments. We distributed a 1st draft report and invited NE for discussion in spring 2012 with the conclusion to intensify the survey. Since autumn 2012 we have upgraded the data base and a report is being drafted. Data from about 1000 ha of Miscanthus show a highly variable yield (9.3 +/-3 t/ha) in their 5th harvest year. These data are being compared to NDVI derived from Landsat data.
Collaborator Contribution Natural England organised the distribution of a series of questionnaires to farmers under the Energy Crop Scheme. Members of Natural England also organised some on-farm/field meetings to survey the planting/production success European Space Agency provided Landsat-5 TM scenes for September 2011 to derive NDVI for the on-farm experimental sites and farmers fields, for which a series of respective plant cover and yield data were available. University of Edinburgh (School of Geo Sciences) supervised a student (A Barker) in the pursuit of her MSc in Environmental Protection and Management, within which land cover and NDVI for fields within the Energy Crop Scheme were compared in 2011/12. On the basis of that MSc on-farm yield data and NDVI were compared later on in the project (2013).
Impact - report to Natural England - poster presentation at British Soil Science Society meeting in Lancaster in 2013 - Invited presentation at the 22nd European Biomass Conference and Exhibition in Hamburg, Germany, June 2014
Start Year 2011
 
Description Evaluation of on-farm energy crop yields in collaboration with Natural England, European Space Agency and U of Edinburgh 
Organisation University of Edinburgh
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution In the UK most of the biomass crops (Miscanthus and SRC) are administered through Natural England (NE) in the Energy Crop Scheme (ECS). Yield data out of the ECS present a unique asset to evaluate large scale modelling and estimate the yield gap. In collaboration with NE we selected sites to evaluate the process-based crop model for simulating topographic (climatic) effects on crop performance. To evaluate regional climatic effects we sent out a series of questionnaires since summer 2011 in two successive short-term appointments. We distributed a 1st draft report and invited NE for discussion in spring 2012 with the conclusion to intensify the survey. Since autumn 2012 we have upgraded the data base and a report is being drafted. Data from about 1000 ha of Miscanthus show a highly variable yield (9.3 +/-3 t/ha) in their 5th harvest year. These data are being compared to NDVI derived from Landsat data.
Collaborator Contribution Natural England organised the distribution of a series of questionnaires to farmers under the Energy Crop Scheme. Members of Natural England also organised some on-farm/field meetings to survey the planting/production success European Space Agency provided Landsat-5 TM scenes for September 2011 to derive NDVI for the on-farm experimental sites and farmers fields, for which a series of respective plant cover and yield data were available. University of Edinburgh (School of Geo Sciences) supervised a student (A Barker) in the pursuit of her MSc in Environmental Protection and Management, within which land cover and NDVI for fields within the Energy Crop Scheme were compared in 2011/12. On the basis of that MSc on-farm yield data and NDVI were compared later on in the project (2013).
Impact - report to Natural England - poster presentation at British Soil Science Society meeting in Lancaster in 2013 - Invited presentation at the 22nd European Biomass Conference and Exhibition in Hamburg, Germany, June 2014
Start Year 2011
 
Description 6th World Congress on Biofuel and Bioenergy, 5-6 Sept 2017; Keynote 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact About 60 people from all over the world and all kinds of professions, policy makers, industrial and scientific background attend a 2-day conference with about 30 talks. It was very interesting and has led to a number of follow-up contacts, e.g. with Turkey and the US/Canada. I was invited to give a keynote on the theme of "Biomass resource optimization tools in the food-fuel-environment context" which was very well received and discussed. Abstract: Multiple and increasing demands for renewable resources affect the bio-economy as a whole but escalate in particular around bioenergy and biofuel. For many reasons, perennial crops, like short-rotation coppice (SRC), Miscanthus [1, 2] and grassland are attractive choices. The purpose of this talk is to illustrate in three examples the use of advanced mathematical optimization tools to increase the production and performance of whole systems exploiting synergies and calculating trade-offs. Methodology: (1) A process-based model (PBM) for simulating trait and environmental effects on plant growth is to optimize G x E solutions for low-input SRC [3]. (2) Up-scaled PBMs using scenario simulations for different crop systems were used [4] to estimate available biomass resources and the yield gap resulting from fertilizer and livestock reduction. (3) A whole systems optimization framework, the Bioenergy Value Chain Model (BVCM) [5] is presented that allows evaluating the biomass flow through the value chain under market and ecosystem constraints. Findings: The PBM for SRC-willow identified a limited number of robust trait-related parameters that can be used to accelerate the selection and breeding process. An environmental (pedo-climatic) scenario analysis enabled us to ascertain the best variety for droughty environments with the highest water use efficiency and least impact on water resources. For UK grassland system we estimated a yield gap of 6 to 20 million tons of exploitable biomass when recommended N-fertilizer would be applied. Extending these results to the BVCM additional biogas from grassland biomass trade-offs from increased nitrous oxide emissions are calculated. Conclusion: PBM for plant growth will be extended to optimize SRC traits for the industrial scale land reclamation of heavy metal contamination. Recommendations for best combinations of genotype x environment x management can be derived from these simulations and scaled up to optimize land use between bioenergy, food and other ecosystem services.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL https://biofuels-bioenergy.conferenceseries.com/europe/
 
Description Biomass and Energy Crops V Conference 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact There were talks and discussion over two days and an open panel discussion and interviews on the second day, see link below
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
URL https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCZCMCCAkmtgV5TsNaBCpdIQ/videos
 
Description Developing Sustainable Bioenergy Crops for Future Climates - Oxford 24-27 September 2017 - Invited talk 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact IN SILICO EXPLORATION OF GENOTYPE X ENVIRONMENT X MANAGEMENT EFFECTS FOR SHORT ROTATION WILLOW
Richter, Goetz Michael1, Richard, Benjamin1, Qi, Aiming1, Cerasuolo, Marianna2
1) Dept. of Sustainable Agriculture Science, Rothamsted Research, Harpenden, AL5 2JQ, UK
2) Dept. of Mathematics, University of Portsmouth, Lion Gate Bldg., Portsmouth, PO1 3HF, UK.

ABSTRACT:

Future climate scenarios are especially uncertain in terms of water availability related to rainfall distribution. The conflict with food crops regarding land use exacerbates the need for bioenergy crops with low water demand and high water use efficiency (WUE). Here, we illustrate: (1) how canopy structure and size of willow genotypes (Salix ssp.) affect the resource use efficiency (light, water) and (2) how phenotypic differences compensate negative environment effects (soil, climate).
Our model optimizes explicitly traits of light interception with parameters of vertical and horizontal leaf distribution [1] and simulates the evapotranspiration as a function of leaf area, root distribution and water stress sensitivity [2]. The model and its parameter sensitivity was evaluated against long time series of biomass and water dynamics in two contrasting UK sites. In a large scenario analysis across a wide range of climate-soil combinations we identified the respective best performers and calculated the probability of exceeding an economic threshold yield (9 t ha-1).
The sensitivity analysis revealed that parameters of canopy structure ranked highly (11th, 15th) under conditions of ample water supply. Their rank dropped under water stress (24th, 30th), when parameters of root growth and water stress became dominant (9th), which showed differences between phenotypes.
The scenario analysis showed that apart from the UK's Southwest the production on marginal soils (water availability <100 mm) was unlikely to be economically sustainable. Under high evaporation demand (south UK) the effects of phenotypic differences (canopy size) on biomass production were smaller than in the north. Under highest water stress (south-east) small canopy had a significantly higher WUE through exploiting soil water.
In conclusion, modelling identified consistently traits of smaller canopies paired with strong root development for selection of drought resistant phenotypes. Trade-offs with water savings are being analysed.

References
[1] Cerasuolo M, Richter GM, Cunniff J, et al. (2013). Agr. Forest Meteorol. 173:127-38.
[2] Cerasuolo M, Richter GM, Richard B, Cunniff J, et al., (2016). J Exp. Bot. 67(3):961-77.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2009,2017
URL http://www.watbio.eu/bioenergy-genomics-17-oxford-conference/bioenergy-genomics-17-programme/
 
Description ETI-Bioenergy Research Focus 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? Yes
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact These discussions shaped two major research project of national (UK) importance

We subsequently competed and contributed to two project proposals which eventually got continued in an on-going EPSRC-funded project (Bioenergy value chain optimization, led by Imperial College)
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2010,2011
 
Description EU Biomass Conf and Exhibition 2014, Hamburg/Germany 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? Yes
Type Of Presentation paper presentation
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact As session chair and presenter I had a good visibility and had a good discussion afterwards

Invited Paper contribution to Biomass & Bioenergy to combine on-farm yield monitoring, modelling and remote sensing to develop a resource tracking tool
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
 
Description International Bioenergy Conference 2017, Manchester 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Presented a poster: "Estimating spatially explicit biomass productivity for grassland types in the UK
Abstract: BACKGROUND: Grasslands represent more than two thirds of UK agricultural land. Reduced demand for home-grown and grassland-based dairy and meat products have caused a productivity gap, which could be used for bioenergy. Within a whole systems analysis of bioenergy the objectives were to model attainable productivities on temporary, permanent and rough-grazing grasslands. We present results for (1) scaling up process-based model (PBM) into biophysical meta-models (MM), and (2) estimating feedstock availability for food and fuel/fibre, now and in the future (2050s).
Results
The calibrated PBM simulates observed biomass yields well (Figure 2A) and up-scaling into MMs (Figure 2B) caused only small rise in uncertainty in yield prediction (R2 from 82.1 to 73.5%). The distribution of survey-based modelled feedstock availability (Figure 3) shows regional hotspots for temporary and permanent grassland potentially available for energy.
Future projections (Figure 4) show highest potential gains in temporary grassland due to technological progress, which can be extrapolated using the national areas (Table 1). Conclusions and Future Work
Productivity on temporary grassland bears the highest gains due to management & inputs.
First question is how innovations will increase productivity of temporary and permanent grassland (e.g. use of high sugar grass) and second, how can incentives close the yield gap?
Yield distributions will be used in the whole systems analyses to identify desirable options for bioenergy production in balance with other competing ecosystem services.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description International Bioenergy Conference from 22 to 24 March 2017 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Dr. Richard presented a poster on "Optimizing regional phenotypes of SRC-willow to improve resource use efficiency and reduce environmental impact" (Richard, Qi and Richter). The poster session was started with a flash talk in front of the poster. It was followed the next day by a SHARE (Early-career researchers group on biomass and bioenergy) event with a visit of Manchester University and networking opportunity with Mendeley.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017