26 October 2001

Biofuel calls win backing countrywide

CALLS to drop duty on bio-fuels to parity with LPG are winning growers backing across the country.

"This is the only answer for British agriculture," enthuses Roger Douglas, from Thorganby, Lincs.

Spring oilseed rape grown for bio-diesel production could dovetail with government environmental objectives to increase winter stubbles and fit in with current combinable crop rotations, he says.

Area payments could be adjusted to encourage growers into the crop and compensate for the lower yield potential compared with winter oilseed rape. Up to one third of the current combinable crop area could be dedicated to bio-diesel, he maintains.

"Under my regulations there would be no ploughing until March 1st and there would need to be a yield threshold, so people would not just take the area payment and walk away."

Such a system would ease pressure on vegetable and potato growers too, he suggests. "It would stop people growing these crops unless they are really on the right land. And it would take some pressure off the dairy, beef, sheep and pig sectors as we arable men would not be tempted to look elsewhere to make money."

Cornish grower Paul Harris maintains that fodder beet for bio-ethanol production has more potential for those in the south-west.

"It is an ideal break-crop for the vegetable rotations we have down here. Spring oilseed rape would not be considered, because it is another brassica."

Local processing would be needed due to the cost of transporting the crop.

But European funding could help set that up, he suggests. Provided sufficient crop area was grown specialist growing equipment would not be a problem, he adds.

"Our traditional crops are not worth what they were 10 years ago and with arable area payments falling we have got to be on the lookout for something else to grow. Fodder beet for bio-fuel could be it." &#42