According to the initial results of EU-funded research the use of rapeseed cake in the production of livestock feed can cut methane and carbon dioxide emissions by up to 13%. This is the preliminary finding of a study carried out by the LIFE-SEED CAPITAL project, co-funded by the European Commission´s LIFE+ programme which supports EU-wide environmental and nature conservation projects.
The project hopes to find new ways of saving energy and reducing of greenhouse gases emissions, using 100% of the seed and keeping the ´conflict´ between biofuel production and human food to a minimum.
Globally, agricultural emissions have increased by almost 17% from 1990 to 2005. Methane is the second most important greenhouse and emissions from livestock accounts for respectively 37 percent of all human-induced methane, around 900 billion tonnes every year, and 64 percent of ammonia, which contributes significantly to acid rain.
Once emitted, it remains in the atmosphere for approximately 9-15 years and is about 21 times more effective in trapping heat in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide over a 100-year period. The livestock sector generates more greenhouse gas emissions – 18 percent and expected to double by 2050 – than transport.
Rapeseed cake, also known as ‘oil cake’, is a by-product produced after pressing the plant to extract its oil. Initial results from the project indicate that introducing oilseed plant into animal food reduces methane emissions by between 6% and 13% and carbon dioxide emissions by between 6.8% and 13.6%.
Introducing this oilseed preparation into the diet of ruminants also improves efficiency in the use of digestible organic matter by between 4.4% and 10.1% and cuts the fermentation of the diet by between 6.2% and 11.8% without making it less digestible.
The advantages of using this plant start from its use as a rotation crop, because it is capable of increasing cereal productivity and improving soil structure.
Once it has been harvested, rapeseed can be used as a biofuel and added to diesel in varying proportions after simple cold pressing. A waste product in this process is used at the same time to produce animal feed with the resulting cost-cutting for farmers and greater efficiency.
NEIKER-Tecnalia and CEMITEC are the two principle partners of the consortium.
NEIKER-Tecnalia is the state-owned Basque Institute for Agricultural Research and Development while CEMITEC is the Multidisciplinary Centre for Industry Technologies, which seeks to contribute to improving the competitiveness of enterprises through the development of R&D.
The project was selected from among over 1 150 initiatives. It has a budget of just over 1m, including 512,000 from the EU and the rest from the Government of the Basque Autonomous Community and CEMITEC.
Irati Kortabitarte, from the project, said, ‘The harmful environmental effects of livestock production are becoming increasingly serious at all levels – local, regional, national and global – and urgently need to be addressed. To achieve EU proposed goals, in the current project, we propose to use vegetable oils blended with diesel as a fuel and the co-products obtained in its production in ruminant nutrition. Carbon dioxide neutral systems will be a key issue for future farming since this will open the energy markets for farmers and contribute to sustainability at the same time.’