||To understand more about how farmers have integrated 2G energy crops into their wider farm business, the ETI commissioned ADAS to carry out three case studies of successful transitions to 2G energy crops, examining the financial impact of the crop and understanding how farmers have optimised the way they use their land to minimise any impact on food production. This document provides the evidence behind each case study and details how the financial costs and benefits and food production changes were calculated. .
- All three case studies demonstrate that planting energy crops can increase the profitability of the land over a 23-year lifetime. Initial investment costs are expected to be paid back within the first six to seven years.
- When optimising the use of land across the farm, impacts on food production can be minimised or avoided. in two case studies, food impacts were minimised by using land which delivered poor arable yields, and by minimising the reduction in sheep numbers through higher stocking densities (the number of sheep per hectare). in the third case study, the crop was planted on unused land so no food production was displaced.
- Land which is less suitable for food production or grazing can be suited to energy crops as they can be successfully planted on poorer quality soils, and land which is more prone to waterlogging or weed problems. They are also suited to less accessible fields as they require less intensive management than arable crops.
- The farmers in these case studies chose to grow energy crops for a variety of reasons - making better use of difficult or underutilised land, diversifying income and reducing workload. In addition, all farmers cited the importance of obtaining secure fixed-term contracts with buyers in their decision making. This reinforces findings from previous ETI work on enabling UK biomass.
- Discussions with land agents suggest that land used to grow biomass crops should not be valued differently to other agricultural land, as land should be valued on its productive capacity. however, the specific price offered by a buyer will be affected by their objectives in buying the land and their understanding of bioenergy crops. The presence of a profitable contract for the crop and a willingness from the buyer to continue with bioenergy cropping may have a beneficial impact on the land value. If the buyer wishes to change the land use, is uncertain how to manage a bioenergy crop, or if there are limited market outlets for the crop, the land value may be lower than if it weren’t planted with a bioenergy crop.
- Qualitative evidence from the Miscanthus farmers indicate an increase in wildlife, particularly birds, since growing the crop. In the Short Rotation Coppice (SRC) Willow case study, the farm carried out an environmental impact assessment (EIA) before planting.