Multifunctional agriculture reduces environmental problems and increases biomass production

Changes in land use combined with multifunctional production systems can reduce the negative environmental effects of agriculture while increasing biomass production.

Demand for biofuels and bio-based materials increases the pressure on agriculture to produce biomass. Intensified land use can lead to more common negative effects such as erosion, nitrogen leakage, loss of soil carbon and floods.

The problem can be alleviated with the help of multifunctional production systems, which means that perennial crops are grown in a way and place that counteracts the negative environmental effects of intensive agriculture in the landscape. These systems provide society with double benefits: more biomass and reduced environmental problems.

The project has studied three multifunctional systems and how they can be implemented to solve several of agriculture’s most common environmental problems, at the same time as the produced biomass can be harvested for e.g., biofuel production. The three systems are large-scale deployment of riparian buffers and windbreaks consisting of short-rotation coppice (willow and poplar plantations) and perennial grass in rotation with annual crops.

The spatial models are based on high-resolution data and have been applied to 81,000 individual landscapes across the EU and the UK. This way, it is possible to identify individual landscapes where multifunctional systems can be particularly advantageous, while at the same time it is possible to study the effects of implementation at European level. Large-scale deployment of grass in rotation with annual crops can provide soil organic carbon sequestration at levels possibly exceeding 10% of total annual GHG emissions from agriculture in EU27-UK.

Implementing multifunctional systems on a large scale requires local markets for biomass and the possibility of compensation for delivered environmental benefits. This is exemplified in a case study of an existing CHP plant in Skåne. The CHP plant utilizes lignocellulose from energy crops for bio-oil production. It could fill almost its entire need for biomass raw material from local plantings on buffer strips and in filter zones, as well as poplar cultivation on abandoned arable land.

Read the press release from Mid Sweden University announcing publication of the latest scientific article from the project.


Göran Berndes, Chalmers


Christel Cederberg, Chalmers // Oskar Englund, Mid Sweden University and Englund GeoLab AB // Pål Börjesson, Lund University

Time plan
July 2019 - December 2021

Total project cost
1 978 134 SEK

Swedish Energy Agency, the f3 partners, Chalmers, Englund GeoLab AB and Lund University

Swedish Energy Agency's project number within the collaborative research program

Part of the dissemination in the project was carried out within IEA Bioenergy Task 45 - Climate and sustainability effects of bioenergy within the broader bioeconomy.