Can We Transform All Plants Into Biofuels

Plants growing on the earth’s surface capture solar radiation, absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, and draw water and mineral elements from the soil to create organic matter and thus ensure their development.

All plant organs, such as seeds, roots, stems, and even leaves, can become sources of energy or fuel thanks to their composition of oils and glucose. But some plants lend themselves better than others!

Two types of biofuels

There are two main types of first-generation biofuels: diester for diesel engines, and bioethanol for gasoline engines.

  • The diester is made from rapeseed, sunflower or soybean vegetable oils. It is used in mixture with diesel.
  • Bioethanol comes from plants rich in sugar, such as sugar cane or sugar beet. It can also be obtained from plants with a high starch content: wheat, corn, potato.

Diester: a question of oils

For the diester, the fatty acid composition of vegetable oils is decisive, because the oils must be very stable with respect to heat.

In this perspective, the sunflower is a particularly interesting plant because its oil is composed of a great diversity of fatty acids. In 2006, a selection program was also launched from 76 sunflower ecotypes.

Should plants be adapted?

Yes, because for biofuels to be economically viable, the plant must be as easy as possible to transform. The breeders, therefore, look for varieties more interesting. For sugar cane and beet, the richness in sugar, and therefore potentially in alcohol, is a permanent selection criterion. As for wheat, corn, and potato, research is currently focusing on the content and quality of starches.

Do biofuels compete with food needs?

Biofuel production has generally developed as a complement to food production and not as a substitute. Even if the possible competition with food production remains a point of vigilance, it has allowed many countries to be less dependent on oil imports and to create production sectors rich in jobs.

In addition, the current trend is to transform the “waste” from field crops (the stalk and leaves of corn, for example) or to produce biofuels from non-food plants that consume less input.

Agricultural Practices And Sustainable Development

Agriculture and livestock bring more and more varied products to men, meeting more and more diverse needs.

However, these agricultural practices are not without consequences for our environment.

Producing more often means polluting more, consuming more.

How can man improve his production while respecting the environment, that is to say by pursuing the objectives of sustainable development?

  1. Sustainable development and cereal production

The cereal agriculture demands mostly the use of pesticides and insecticides, and the use of agricultural equipment, large fuel consumers.

To limit these negative effects, some environmentally friendly practices can be used by farmers.

  • Equipment of tractors with GPS

The GPS (Global Position System) is a device that makes it possible to receive from precise satellite images of the field where the tractor is fitted with such a system.

The use of GPS thus makes it possible:

– to reduce the number of crossings (that is to say the fact of passing in the same place several times) during the working of the ground;

– greater efficiency in the work of tractors, i.e., a 10% reduction in fuel consumption ;

– abetter management of the number of seeds sown ;

– better control, and therefore lower doses of pesticides and insecticides spread in the fields.

  • Use of stubble plows

This type of plow buries the humus by turning it over only about 10 cm deep, which preserves flora and fauna of the soil.

The farmer thus spends less time plowing and again saves fuel.

  • Seed control

The seeds sown are selected by scientists.

They are earlier, more resistant to disease, and have better nutritional value.

The yields are thus improved.

  • Reduction in the area of ​​cultivated land

Limiting the area of ​​cultivable land and leaving the rest in meadows makes it possible to limit the treatments and doses of pesticides and insecticides.

Good crop rotation also reduces the risk of diseases and weeds.

  1. Sustainable development and milk production

More and more dairy farmers are adopting environmentally-friendly measures.

  • Extension of time on pasture

Animals are left on pasture as long as possible: they feed on grass, which costs less to produce than corn, a food given when cows are installing.

In the pastures, we also grow clover, which is capable of capturing nitrogen from the air and transforming it into a nutrient for the meadow.

This avoids the addition of chemical fertilizers. The droppings spread by animals on pasture are sufficient.

  • Increase in the area of ​​living spaces

The building that houses cows in winter is called a stable.

The most recent ones allow more cows to be accommodated in a larger, better-ventilated space, sheltered from temperature variations. The cows are thus less stressed and thus produce better quality milk.

The stables are cleaned by scraping robots that collect the manure. The latter is then stored and treated in pits to avoid pollution of water and soil.

  • Modernization of milking

Milking cows is now carried out by machines, called milking machines. The milking time being programmed; this saves energy. In addition, these new rooms make it possible to improve hygiene conditions.

Sustainable Solutions For Agriculture

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, it will be necessary to increase agricultural production by 70% by 2050 to be able to feed 9.1 billion people.

The challenge of tomorrow, therefore, has several dimensions: we must produce more to feed more mouths, ensuring a balanced diet for all and more respect for the environment.

This involves agriculture, which consumes less energy (and other energies than oil), less water, and preserves water and soil quality, but the changes will also come from our consumption choices and our behavior.

Limiting food waste

In thezpoorest countries, the majority of losses occur at the time of harvest (15 to 35% loss in the fields) and at the time of manufacture, transport, and storage (10 to 15%);

It is therefore essential to provide resources to the countries of the South to limit losses during the harvest, and in the countries of the North, to adapt our consumption to avoid waste.

Adopting food choices that have less impact on the planet

Each food has a higher or lower environmental impact. Everyone can act at their level to ensure a quality diet that also helps conserve resources.

Above all, it is a question of having the most diversified food possible by applying two main principles:

  • consume a variety of fresh, seasonal, locally produced fruits and vegetables that are more environmentally friendly;
  • favor legumes at a level recommended by nutritionists.

What place for biofuels?

To reduce greenhouse gas emissions from thermal cars, manufacturers have developed cars running on biofuels. From cultivated plants such as cereals, beets, rapeseed, or sunflower, soybeans, or oil palm, they are an alternative solution to fossil fuels.

In some countries (notably in Latin America), the cultivation of biofuels can compete with food production. It is to avoid this that important research is underway to develop biofuels 2nd generation. The latter comes from, among other things, biomass (wood, straw, etc.), algae, and, more generally, living organisms. They are expected on the market by 2020.

Promote a subsistence, local agriculture

In order to allow equal access to food, experts propose to further develop subsistence farming in developing countries. It is a “self-consumption” agriculture directly linked to food, most of whose production is consumed by the farmer and his family. Only the surplus would be sold on local markets.

It would also reduce greenhouse gas emissions from transporting crops from the country of production to the country of consumption.