South-east NFU members stepped up their campaign to promote biofuel at this week’s Labour party conference, driving a Fendt tractor powered by biodiesel on the Brighton sea-front.

The message emblazoned on a hoarding was that, if the government wanted to meet its climate change targets, then it should support home-grown biofuels.

“Climate change is moving up the political agenda, but we’re waiting for the government to develop innovative policies that encourage accelerated investment in biofuel production,” said NFU non-food crops advisor Matt Ware.

Biofuel offered a 60% reduction in CO2 emissions, could be grown on set-aside land and created high-energy animal feed as a by-product.

Tesco already includes 5% bioethanol in its petrol pumps in the south-east and north-west, and 1% bio-diesel.

Kent-based farmer Andrew Martin, who is involved in a 20,000 viability study under the South East NFU’s Champions programme, said that biofuel was now cheaper than conventional fossil fuel.

His costings put the price of biodiesel at 86p/litre, including a margin for the grower.

An 80,000 investment would provide the equipment needed to produce 500,000 litres of fuel a year.

That would require about 1500t of rapeseed.

“I am looking for collaborators and will be applying for a government grant,” Mr Martin said.