‘It offers an additional revenue stream,’ said Chaud. ‘(Farmers) will not only sell the grain, but also the straw.’
By the end of the project, Chaud hopes they will have the plans for the first commercial biorefinery. Which he said could start paying farmers for their wheat in under a decade.
But if plant owners and farmers both have an incentive to collect wheat straw, could too much organic material be taken off the fields, exposing the soil to erosion and degradation?
‘In sustainable farming a fraction of this (wheat straw) residue should remain in the field to reduce erosion and protect the organic carbon and nutrients in the soil,’ said Chaud. ‘But you can export up to 30-60 % without endangering soil quality.’
The project is also taking a conservative approach and only considers one third of the available wheat straw to be available for biofuel and biochemical production in their calculations of the potential future market.
Meanwhile, the leftover materials from the processed wheat straw can be used as an alternative to fossil fuel-based fertilisers, a by-product that would support, rather than hinder, sustainable agriculture.
Small square Wheat in 21 bale bundles for fast and easy handling. Walker and Rotary Straw available. State Certified Weed Free also avialable
Additionally, wheatwaste can be used to support a greener construction industry too.
‘We are extracting sugars and lignin from wheat straw waste,’ said Dr Miriam Garcíaa materials scientist at Tecnalia Research and Innovation centre in Gipuzkoa, Spain. WHO helps coordinate REHAP.
The project is nearing the end. Its first year where the researchers have been developing the processes to extract these biochemicals.