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Optimisation of agricultural production systems for a future climate

Researchers from Aarhus University collaborate with researchers from the University of Copenhagen on the development of system analyses that can optimize climate change for food production and biomass use in Danish agriculture.

2020.01.27 | Camilla Brodam

Photo: RaisFoto

In its present form, only a single or a few major products often come out of agricultural production systems. For example, in today's cattle production, milk and meat are the main products, but according to researchers from the Department of Agroecology at Aarhus University, there can be many more options if cattle production was part of a larger circular system. It would be possible to target crop utilization to improve overall resource utilisation. An example is the biorefining of grass, where protein from the refining of grass is used in the feeding of pigs and poultry, while the grass pulp can be included in the feeding of cattle or for biogas and subsequent fertilisation of crops. 

According to Senior Researcher Troels Kristensen, new agricultural production systems are needed if the vision of a climate-neutral agriculture in 2050 is to be realized.

"New technology and adaptation of current production methods are needed, including the use of agricultural crops for new materials and energy," he explains.

Circular direction for agriculture

"There is a need to develop new methods for analysis and documentation of efficiency and sustainability if agricultural production is to be shifted in a more circular direction," says Troels Kristensen, project manager for the new climate research project.

With the title "Circular agriculture: System analysis of green biomass for food, feed, and energy" it aims to build expertise in system analysis, develop and program a model, and carry out a holistic analysis of selected circular biomass systems. The Ministry of the Environment and Food of Denmark has allocated DKK 5,240,000 to the project, which is a collaboration between researchers from Aarhus University and the University of Copenhagen.

One of the aims of the project is to develop a model that can be used to assess the potential of new technologies, production systems, and instruments in general. With this model, the researchers will be able to describe biomass systems, as well as estimate the consequences they have, among other things, in relation to climate and environment. The model will be able to help estimate the climate and environmental effects of a circular conversion of agricultural production in Denmark. For example, which consequences a new technology or certain instruments can have for greenhouse gas emissions.

Geographically rooted

The model will not only be able to describe and evaluate new technologies, systems, and instruments; it should also be linked to geographical data so that the most appropriate location of e.g. new production systems can be identified. It will thus be possible to estimate where potential new technologies or production systems will work best in Denmark. In this way, the potential for implementation at a national level can be quantified in relation to the expected effect on the production of food and energy, greenhouse gas emissions and derived environmental effects. In other words, the project will make a significant contribution to an appropriate climate-optimised conversion of food production and biomass use towards a climate-neutral Danish agriculture in 2050.


More information

Senior Scientist Troels Kristensen, Department of Agroecology, University of Aarhus.
Email: troels.kristensen@agro.au.dk
Tel.: +45 8715 8014

Research, Agro, DCA