Land savings potential of pea/barley intercropping and the resulting biofuel potential in Europe
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Greenhouse gas emission (GHG) reduction targets have led to an increased demand for bioenergy. One way to increase bioenergy production is through intensification of agriculture, and use of the surplus land area for biofuel cultivation. Intercropping has been theorised to lead to such intensification. Therefore, a literature review was executed to identify the potential benefits of intercropping over sole cropping, to estimate the land savings potential from pea/barley intercrops, to calculate the resulting biofuel potential, and to approximate the difference in fertilizer needs between pea/barley sole and intercrops. The focus of the study was on pea/barley, because of their complementarity indicated in literature. Finally, a sensitivity analysis was conducted to illustrate a reliable range of results instead of a singular value. Intensification of pea/barley cultivation through intercropping constitutes a considerable land savings potential. As much as 50 thousand hectares of land might be freed up for other purposes in the 15 European countries within the scope of the current study, which is the approximate size of the ‘Noord-Oost polder’ in the Netherlands. If this land would be utilized for biofuel production, 7,32 PJ could be generated each year, providing the same amount of energy as the heat demand of roughly 175 thousand Dutch households. European countries could increase their renewable energy production from biomass and waste by .184%. Emission abatement from biofuel production was up to 522 kt CO2eq. Intercropping did not seem to contribute to a lower N fertilizer need, although this was almost impossible to conclude due to the large variance in the result.