Consequential life cycle assessment of miscanthus livestock bedding, diverting straw to bioelectricity generation

Jalil Yesufu* (Corresponding Author), Jon P. McCalmont, John C. Clifton‐Brown, Prysor Williams, John Hyland, James Gibbons, David Styles

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Straw is an important livestock bedding material facing increasing demand for alternative uses in Europe and is often transported long distances from arable to livestock regions. Alternative bedding materials cultivated directly on livestock farms could potentially avoid this transport and competition for use. For the first time, we applied consequential life cycle assessment (LCA) to account for the direct and indirect implications of miscanthus bedding production on livestock farms, considering displacement of fodder or livestock, and substitution of fossil fuels with straw in electricity generation. We modelled the effect of substituting straw with ‘home-grown’ miscanthus bedding across seven beef and sheep farms. The consequences of displacing grass forage (or animal) production with home-grown miscanthus bedding cultivation were evaluated via three farmer decision scenarios: buy extra concentrate feed (D1), utilize remaining pasture areas more efficiently (D2) and buy grass silage (D3). Electricity generated from displaced straw (bedding) substituted either natural gas or coal electricity. Sensitivity analyses were undertaken using 34 scenario permutations to represent combinations of feed and electricity substitution, miscanthus fertilization rates and yields, and the quality of displaced pasture. Consequential LCA indicates that miscanthus bedding production could be environmentally beneficial, under scenarios involving D2 and D3. However, greenhouse gas emissions and wider environmental burdens may be increased under D1 scenarios, owing to the environmental cost of additional concentrate feed production, and possible indirect land use change, outweighing the benefits from: (a) fossil electricity substitution with straw bioelectricity; (b) reduced animal emissions via improved digestibility of concentrate feed; (c) avoided straw transport. The ratio of the yield of miscanthus to replaced grass was found to be a critical determinant of D1 environmental outcomes. We conclude that if grass forage production can be better managed, the use of miscanthus as a bedding material on livestock farms provides environmental benefits via diversion of straw to bioenergy use.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)39-53
Number of pages15
JournalGCB Bioenergy
Volume12
Issue number1
Early online date4 Sep 2019
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2020

Keywords

  • attributional LCA
  • biomass
  • digestibility
  • displacement
  • farm models
  • greenhouse gas
  • land use change
  • residue

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