Photo credit: OPUNTIA BIOGAS ELQUIGLOBALENERGY P9270040_2 copy.JPG
Cacti: the new energy crop?
Cacti could be the new Jatropha. There is a buzz in some biofuel circles that these desert succulents are set to become the next wonder energy crop — yielding prodigious quantities of biomass for biogas fermentation to generate electricity in the semi-arid lands of Africa and elsewhere.
Depending on your view, giant cactus farms spread across poor and famine-prone regions such as the Sahel, could transform low-carbon energy markets, reduce desertification and generate much-needed income. Or they could pose a dramatic new threat to livelihoods and landscapes.
Promoters of cactus power, such as the British eco-entrepreneur Mike Mason, accept that energy crops have a bad reputation for taking land that could be growing food. They argue that the trick is to find crops that will grow on land that is too arid to grow food without expensive irrigation. So they are targeting desert plants like cacti which need little water.
Read the full article: CGIAR – Agriculture and Ecosystems Blog
Author: Willem Van Cotthem
Honorary Professor of Botany, University of Ghent (Belgium). Scientific Consultant for Desertification and Sustainable Development. View all posts by Willem Van Cotthem