Charles Sutherland Scholarship fund: Willow as a bioenergy crop for net zero

30 Nov 2023

By Antonio Castellano Albors

In the first week of August 2023, I was able to travel to UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (UKCEH) in Lancaster thanks to the funding provided by the Charles Sutherland Scholarship. My research project lies under the interdisciplinarity Demonstrator ‘Perennial Bioenergy Crops for Greenhouse Gas Removal’ (PBC4GGR). It aims to bring scientific support and best knowledge to inform and help the UK Government in the delivery of a mass-scale deployment of bioenergy crops in a sustainable and economically viable way. As part of my research, I will use the life cycle assessment as a tool to study the total GHG emission derived from the production and supply chain of commercial willow from nursery to combustion.

Hands-on experience

Luckily for me, UKCEH is a key collaborator in this project, which allowed me to have a hands-on experience on several aspects directly related to the measurement of GHG. The two-day programme started by visiting UKCEH office at the University of Lancaster to pack things ready for starting our sampling in the field. Myerscough College is one of the two contrasting climate locations involved in PBC4GGR, where bioenergy crops (willow among them) are grown under five different agronomies.

Antonio Castellano Albors Amongst The Willow

I enjoyed measuring N2O fluxes with the gas analyser and seeing what challenges are faced at this stage. Surprisingly, we even had the privilege of enjoying a British summer day with rain! Other useful experience was to see the eddy covariance tower in place and to know more about the data collected for studying the energy balance between soil, plant and atmosphere.

Willow performing well

I had the opportunity to see how willow was performing under the different agronomies. The day out finished by learning how to measure willow trees to be used in allometric models. It was great to see willow performing so well in the field and I am looking forward to coming back and know about its development.

The second day took place at the lab in UKCEH in Lancaster. Soil samples from the field taken the day before were processed and analysed. I thoroughly enjoyed being part of the team for one day and to help while learning. It was also nice to have the opportunity to catch up with colleagues and get to know more about their projects. This journey allowed me to meet new researchers and I hope that a successful collaboration can grow in the future.

I would like to thank Ashley Taylor and Simon Oakley from UKCEH for their help and collaboration during these two days. I am sincerely grateful to the Charles Sutherland Scholarship fund for the support and interest showed in my research and development.

Antonio Castellano Albors is a PhD Student at The University of Aberdeen.