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Primary biomass production

Subject: Agricultural (technical), ecological and economic aspects of primary biomass production

Increasing scarcity of raw materials and land require an efficient use of these raw materials. The yield and quality improvement of biomass must be achieved in a sustainable manner (sustainable intensification), with respect for natural resources. The biomass production is customer-oriented and guarantees the farmer a fair income.

Adapted crops, taking into account agrobiodiversity and climate change, are developed for optimal valorisation (in both conventional and niche markets). Breeding, when combined with appropriate management, can achieve this.

Current ILVO focus

  • Breeding of optimal varieties in bioeconomy crops and development of sustainable cultivation practices to maximise crop production within low input regimes and limiting ecological conditions (biotic and abiotic stress) without depletion of natural resources such as water, minerals, nutrients and energy.
  • Monitoring and improvement of biomass quality, harvesting efficiency in collaboration with the processing industry, including physicochemical properties of the biomass.
  • Development of new phenomics, metabolomics and genomics technologies that support crop improvement.
  • Cultivation, breeding, crop protection, genetics, and eco-physiology are mainly, but not exclusively, studied in: forage crops (grasses, clover and maize), industrial crops (chicory, flax and potato) and new bio-massage crops (e.g. miscanthus, short rotation coppice)

Direction of future research

  • Efficient crop improvement through the development of hybrids and the implementation of new technologies
  • Diversification by introducing new crops (meeting specific customer needs), by screening crops for the presence/production of fine chemicals, by growing crops for high value-added products in fully controlled systems and by multifunctional and alternative use of current crops.
  • Integrated pest management through sustainable pest and disease control and adaptation of crops and their production to ecological constraints caused by climate change.
  • Optimisation of crop systems (crop rotation, agroforestry)
  • Harvesting technology linked to the processing needs and post-harvest storage of the biomass
  • Alternative biomass (algae, insects, ...)


  1. Insects: sustainable new green raw materials?
  2. Chemical and biochemical characterisation of biomass flows
  3. Chicory: source of inulin and a prebiotic dietary fiber
  4. Marigold CALENDULA: a golden opportunity for Flanders
  5. Miscanthus: source of woody biomass
  6. Dandelion (Taraxacum): feedstock for rubber and inulin
  7. Fodder for anaerobic digestion
  8. Bioethanol production from grain maize
  9. Growing A Green Future
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