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Increasing biomass of Silphium perfoliatum L. for energy production in Austria


The central objective of the project “Bioenergy-Silphium” is an increase in bioenergy production in Austria by enhancing the sustainable biomass production with Silphium perfoliatum L. for energetic use without reducing the existing areas for human or animal food production. The productive yet undemanding perennial plant is an interesting option not only for areas that are already used for biomass production but also for areas that are currently used only to a limited extent or not at all. On the basis of results obtained by the Thüringer Landesanstalt für Landwirtschaft (Centre for Agriculture of the Land of Thuringia), solutions are conceived so as to better use potentials for biomass and energy yield. At the same time the objective of minimizing erosion, emissions, and pollution of ground and surface waters by nutrition input is pursued.


The energy policy of the European Community aims at increasing the percentage of renewable energy sources (Directive 2009/28/EC). For this reason, the production of energy from renewable resources gains in importance and leads to the extension of cultivation areas of dominating energy plants such as maize and millet. The consequences are an increase in pests and diseases (Diabrotica virgifera or Fusarium spp.) and more environmental pollution. The inevitable decrease in land for buman and animal food production leads to tensions in the food market. The central objective of the project “Bioenergy-Silphium” is the sustainable increase in biomass production for the energetic use in Austria without affecting the level of food production. Cultivation in areas previously used for biomass production and in agricultural areas only used to a small extent or not at all is supposed to ensure a sustainable increase in biomass production. Sowing high-quality seed and using suitable technology instead of conventional planting methods increases competitiveness with regard to other energy plants. Methane gas yield from biomass is determined in a biogas test according to VDI 4630. Different pretreatment measures should allow to find possible process instabilities and to increase gas yield. Suitability for thermal use/ethanol production is calculated on the basis of content analyses.

For a definite economic assessment, the yield potential in different climatic zones in Austria and the energy potential are determined. For achieving the objectives of the project, four field studies with Silphium perfoliatum L. are carried out in different climatic zones in Austria to provide the material that is necessary for the crop analyses. At the Grabenegg site, the climatic and environmental parameters (Creduction potential, ground water pollution, water erosion) are examined. At all four sites, cultivation measures are evaluated, yields are quantified and soils are analyzed. The results serve as a basis for recommendations directed to potential users (farmers, operating companies of biogas facilities).


01.04.2012 – 31.03.2015
Programme: Klima- und Energiefonds (Austrian Climate and Energy Fund)
Funded by
FFG - Forschungsförderungsgesellschaft (The Austrian Research Promotion Agency FFG), Sensengasse 1, 1090 Wien, Austria
Project partners
  • Coordinator: AGES - Österreichische Agentur für Gesundheit und Ernährungssicherheit GmbH (Austrian Agency for Health and Food Safety), Spargelfeldstraße 191, 1220 Wien, Austria
  • Industrial-scale experiments: Biogas Strem Errichtungs- und BetriebsGmbH & Co KG, Feldgasse 27, 7522 Strem, Austria
  • BOKU Division of Agronomy, Konrad Lorenz-Straße 24, 3430 Tulln an der Donau, Austria
  • BOKU Institute of Agricultural and Forestry Economics, Feistmantelstraße 4, 1180 Wien, Austria
Contact person: Günther Bochmann

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