Efficient land use strategies are essential

The amount of arable land in Sweden has decreased for decades but it is not clear how this land is treated when it is no longer cultivated. Land that is not used for alternative purposes but is abandoned or left untreated could potentially be utilized for cultivation for bioenergy purposes, according to a recently published f3 report. In a bio-based economy where efficient utilization of biological materials and resources is central, appropriate land use strategies are of great importance, state the authors Johanna Olofsson and Pål Börjesson.

Knowledge of such land and its geographical distribution and state is currently limited. It is not included in official statistics of agricultural land or forest and it does not receive any type of financial agricultural support. Previous estimations of the amount of abandoned arable land available have been rough and general, leading to demand for more detailed studies.

The report Nedlagd åkermark för biomassaproduktionkartläggning och potentialuppskattning (Abandoned arable land for biomassproduction – mapping and estimation of potential) is written by researchers Johanna Olofsson and Pål Börjesson from Lund University.The aim of the study is to map and estimate total areas of abandoned arable land in Sweden that could be available for cultivation of lignocellulosic biomass. The area estimation is primarily to be implemented in the optimization model BeWhere Sweden, but can also be utilized for several other purposes.

The results from the GIS analysis in the study show that approximately 88 000 ha of abandoned arable land could be available in Sweden. The biomass potential of the abandoned arable land is estimated to approximately 2,8 TWh per year (2,3 TWh per year with lower heating value) assuming cultivation of fast growing trees. The results come with uncertainties and should be seen as rough estimations of potentially available land areas and theoretical biomass production potentials. Nevertheless, based on the statistics and data readily available today, the study provides an improved assessment of potentially available areas of abandoned arable land with high geographic resolution, compared with previous rough estimations.

The current f3 research project BeWhere - Stake-holder analysis of biofuel production in Sweden (which is a continuation of projects Optimal localisation of second generation biofuel production in Sweden and BeWhere II) aims at demonstrating and validating the BeWhere model’s usefulness for relevant stakeholders, and to use the model to examine barriers and drivers for the implementation of new large-scale biofuel production in Sweden. The report Nedlagd åkermark för biomassaproduktionkartläggning och potentialuppskattning is part of the results from the on-going project.

Read the report - in Swedish with an English summary