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Bioenergy

Bioenergy is obtained from organic raw materials, such as:

•    Biogas
•    solid biomass such as wood
•    biowastes

Microorganisms convert stored solar energy in biomass into energetically usable gases. Complex biocoenoses of different species and genera of bacteria and ark live in biogas plants.

Water and gases, especially methane and carbon dioxide, are produced in a controlled decomposition and fermentation process in a humid environment under exclusion of air and oxygen. The remaining fermentation substrate is a valuable fertilizer. Many farms have thus created a second mainstay in recent decades. Bioenergy now accounts for the largest share of energy from renewable sources in Germany. Usable are:

•    heat
•    electricity
•    fuels

Since the introduction of the legislation for Renewable Energy Sources (Erneuerbare-Energien-Gesetz EEG), the number of biogas plants in Germany has grown continuously. Bioenergy production has become more important as a result of efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and the decreasing availability of fossil fuels and their increasing price trend, as it makes an important contribution to:

•    Climate and environmental protection
•    Saving of fossil resources and
•    Broadening domestic raw material base

As a climate-friendly and regionally available energy raw material, biomass can be stored in comparison to other renewable energies and is therefore available as needed.The German Biomass Research Centre investigates new concepts and technical solutions from production to provision and use of biomass.

Animal nutrition and health

In order to use the plant growth from grassland, the livestock species need digestion systems in symbiosis with microorganisms. Probiotics (viable microorganisms) are even incorporated in a targeted way so that they settle in the intestine and have a health-promoting influence on the host animal. They enable animals to better digest food and ruminants in particular to use cellulose-rich plant food. By lactic acid fermentation, field crops are preserved for fodder use, for example as silage. This enables long-term storage and improves taste and nutrient availability. Microorganisms are also involved here.

Microorganisms and invertebrates can also have a negative impact on animal nutrition and health: As pathogens of spoilage, epidemics and diseases and as storage pests. The preservation of these microorganisms in collections and access to them for research is important for the rapid development of vaccines, medicinal products and diagnostic procedures. Increased investigation efforts are needed to further development of the utilization potential of microorganisms in animal nutrition and health.

Plant breeding

In plant breeding viruses, bacteria, fungi, nematodes, mites and insects are particularly important as plant pathogens and harmful organisms. Plant breeding requires systematic and easy access to such pathogens in order to develop resistant varieties.

Renewable raw materials

Renewable raw materials are agricultural and forestry raw materials that can be used for material or energy purposes outside the field of nutrition, such as bioenergy, which is described above. Other examples are:•    Paper und cardboard•    Lubricants•    Intermediate and endproducts of the chemical industry •    Medicinal products•    Cosmetics•    Colourings•    Textiles

Their area under cultivation has grown continuously in recent years. They can help to slow down climate change or serve for security of supply. Microorganisms play an important role because they are often used specifically for material conversion. The Fachagentur Nachwachsende Rohstoffe coordinates research, development and demonstration projects in this field.