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Energy Crops

Energy Crops

Nigel G Halford | Angela Karp


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The last few years have seen the concept of bioenergy and biofuels come of age. Rising oil prices have lead to more food crops being grown for energy as well as food. This has created controversy by adding to the upward pressure on crop commodity prices that was already being created by the increasing demand for food from an expanding population. More attention has, therefore, focussed on meeting the rising demand for bioenergy and biofuels in more sustainable ways. A wider range of crops is being explored, including non-food crops, as well as the use of crop residues rather than grain or seed. Energy Crops is a comprehensive reference source which looks at this topic from the plant and agricultural science perspective. It covers energy crops that are already in use and those that are being developed or researched. Species that have been cultivated by humankind for millennia, and some that have never been considered as crops before, fall within its coverage. The introductory chapter defines energy crops before reviewing the development and current state of the technology. It also gives an historical perspective and introduces the ethical issues. Each of the subsequent chapters is dedicated to a single crop and describes the current usage of that crop for energy, its potential for future development, the economics of its use for energy production, and the research that is being undertaken to tailor it for use as an energy crop. Where appropriate, the implications for food and feed security are balanced against the benefits in terms of fuel security, the impending oil supply 'peak', the need to reduce CO2 emissions, and the implications for climate change mitigation. Each chapter is written by a specialist author or authors of international standing. The chapters by representatives of the plant breeding and biofuel industries give an industrial perspective on why energy crops have 'come of age'. They also describe how the sector is expected to develop with a wish list of crop improvements that industry would like to see realized. These include higher levels of fermentable starch, cellulose, fibres and oil quality through to the production of pure hydrocarbons. The book is suitable for undergraduates, postgraduates, academics, and those working in industry.
Nigel G. Halford is a Research Leader at Rothamsted Research, the UK's premier crop and agricultural research institute. He graduated from Liverpool University in 1983, obtained a Masters Degree from University College London in 1984 and, in 1989, was awarded a PhD for his work at Rothamsted on wheat seed protein genes. He transferred to Long Ashton Research Station near Bristol in 1991, but returned to Rothamsted in 2002. He runs a research programme on metabolic regulation in plants, with strategic objectives in crop yield, stress tolerance and food safety as well as bioenergy production. Professor Halford has authored more than 100 scientific papers and has written one book. He also and edited another book on plant biotechnology. He frequently lectures on plant biotechnology to schools, farmers and environmental groups, and has debated the issue in many media interviews and public meetings in the UK and abroad. He is a member of the Advisory Committee for Animal Feedingstuffs (ACAF), one of the committees that advise the UK government on the use of GM crops, foods and animal feed. He also holds an honorary chair at the Shanghai Academy of Agricultural Sciences. Angela Karp is Scientific Director of the Rothamsted Centre for Bioenergy and Climate Change, and Deputy Head of the Plant and Invertebrate Ecology Division at Rothamsted Research. She is a geneticist by training, having graduated with a First in Genetics at Queen Mary College, London University. Dr. Karp leads an internationally recognised, integrated programme on bioenergy aimed at improving biomass crops within a sustainable land use context. She is the overall coordinator of the UK DEFRA Genetic Improvement Network on SRC willow which involves willow breeding underpinned by trait mapping and genomics. She also coordinates a project on the social, environmental and economic implications of increasing rural land use under energy crops, which focuses on She also coordinates a project on the social, environmental and economic implications of increasing rural land use under energy crops.