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Wild energy plants for landscape and rural economy

The use of biomass to generate energy is making an important contribution towards the implementation of the “Energiewende” and achieving European and national climate protection goals. To minimise the negative effects of biogas production on the environment, Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster (the University of Münster), NRW’s Chamber of Agriculture and the town of Dorsten are trying out new native wild plant seed mixes. These trials – part of the GrünSchatz (“green treasure”) research project – are taking place in western Münsterland and the western area around the Lippe river. The project is looking for plants that not only have a high-yield, but which are also ecologically valuable and have a positive impact on the landscape.

Up until now, biogas production has been partially associated with negative impacts on protected resources, such as ground water, soil, natural scenery, microclimate and biodiversity. In part, these negative effects can be mitigated through the use of wild plant mixes instead of maize. This must also be economically sustainable, so that the ecological benefits can also be realised on the basis of cost-effective operating models.

Engine for progress:

  • increasing the acceptance of bioenergy 
  • analysing the yield of wild plants
  • collecting data about ecological benefits

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Photo: Sabine Paltrinieri

Native wild flowers instead of maize monocultures: as part of the energy transition, this helps significantly reduce the critical perception of biomass cultivation.



Grow, observe and compare

On trial sites in Dorsten, Billerbeck, Coesfeld and Schermbeck-Gahlen, the wild plant mixes are being cultivated and studied over several years in a scientific research study. The sites, which were arranged in the landscape in different positions relative to each other and are cultivated consistently, are compared in terms of dry matter and gas yield. Data is collected, not only about the economic prospects of the wild plants, but also on the positive ecological effects on species living in the soil, such as spiders, beetles and litter decomposers, pollinators, including hymenoptera (bees, bumblebees), as well as various groups of beetles and diptera (flies, etc.), small game animals, butterflies and birds. The question of the acceptance of the cultivation of wild plant mixes by a variety of stakeholders is also under investigation.

Focusing on ecological costs

The project aims to encourage social and political debate about the true ecological costs of technology and decisions. By understanding their impacts on the environment, decisions could already be made differently today. Higher costs in the short term, for example the wild plant alternative, can be shown to be sensible investments: safeguarding pollination, soil fertility and water quality all have a high long-term economic value.

Setting a good example

By developing operator models, examples can be used to illustrate how the economically viable cultivation of wild plants can be realised in practice and in the long term by individual businesses. GrünSchatz shows ways in which native wild plants can be used effectively as a source of biogas. The project aims to contribute to the spread of renewables and an increase in their acceptance, supporting climate protection through beneficial effects on the environment. At the same time, the trial sites are showcases for local people, farmers and visitors.

The project will run for four years.


Photo: private

“Biogas production as a contribution to climate protection must also strengthen biodiversity. With wild plants, these two things are brought together. The mix used in the GrünSchatz project has been developed through a long series of field tests and can be used by practically every farmer.”

Professor Tillmann Buttschardt, project leader



Partners and sponsors


Partners:
  • Westfälische-Wilhelms Universität Münster
  • Stadt Dorsten
  • Landwirtschaftskammer NRW
Sponsors:
  • Ministerium für Klimaschutz, Umwelt, Landwirtschaft, Natur- und Verbraucherschutz (MKULNV)
  • Ministerium für Klimaschutz, Umwelt, Landwirtschaft, Natur- und Verbraucherschutz (MKULNV)