Resource-efficient and profitable industrial crops on marginal land
Industrial crops can contribute to the diversification of farmers' income and to the supply of renewable raw materials for industrial applications fostering the bio-based economy and climate-change mitigation. To avoid land-use competition with food, it is important to promote the development of resource-efficient varieties that can grow on marginal land (i.e. areas facing natural constraints such as low soil productivity or extreme climatic conditions) while generating technical and economic benefits and limiting environmental impact.
Proposals should provide an up-to-date database of existing resource-efficient industrial crops (species and varieties) with their characteristics, needs, performance and end-use applications (e.g. fine or bulk chemicals, materials, energy). Proposals should test, validate and disseminate this tool with the involvement of end-users (e.g. farmers, industry). Proposals should map marginal land in Europe that is most suitable for industrial crops, taking account of socio-economic (e.g. accessibility) and environmental considerations (e.g. conservation of biodiversity and continuity in the provision of ecosystem services), such as EU and national mapping and assessment of ecosystems and their services. Proposals should analyse best-practice cases of industrial crop cultivation and address technical, social, cultural, environmental and economic barriers to and drivers of the use of marginal land for industrial cropping. Proposals should produce policy recommendations and best-practices guides to promote the appropriate sourcing of renewable materials from marginal land at local/regional level.
Proposals should identify the most promising industrial crop species suited to cultivation on large areas of appropriate marginal land in Europe, and plan breeding programmes and field tests to advance genetics and low-input agronomic practices, thus improving the technical, economic and environmental performance of these crops.
Proposals should fall under the concept of the 'multi-actor approach' engaging relevant actors such as researchers, farmers, cooperatives, industrial players from various sectors (e.g. bioenergy, biochemical and biomaterial sectors) and civil society organisations. SME participation is encouraged. Dissemination and networking activities should focus on the promotion and use of the tools and guides that are developed (i.e. industrial crop database, mapping of most suitable marginal land, policy recommendations and guides at local/regional level).
The Commission considers that proposals requesting a contribution from the EU of up to EUR 6 million would allow this specific challenge to be addressed appropriately. Nonetheless, this does not preclude the submission and selection of proposals requesting other amounts.
This action contributes to an increased sourcing of renewable materials from marginal land with the production of low-indirect land use change (i.e. avoiding displacement of agricultural production for food and feed or of forest production), low-input and economically profitable industrial crops for farmers. Applicants will measure the expected impact of the project on the basis of:
- increased awareness and knowledge/practice exchanges among actors across Europe on growing industrial crops on marginal land with different pedo-climatic conditions, using suitable crops and appropriate agronomic practices;
- improved agronomic practices with limited input use (e.g. pesticides, chemical fertilisers, energy and water) and improved genetics of industrial crops potentially best suited to marginal land in Europe; and
- the diversification and increase of farmers' revenues through access to new markets.
In the long term, the results will foster the development of the bio-based economy and contribute to achieving energy and climate targets.