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Research article2019Peer reviewedOpen access

Impact of Harvest Date and Cutting Length of Grass Ley and Whole-Crop Cereals on Methane Yield and Economic Viability as Feedstock for Biogas Vehicle Fuel Production

Prade, Thomas; Svensson, Svenn-Erik; Horndahl, Orsten; Kreuger, Emma


Grass ley and whole-crop cereals used for biogas production are often finely chopped for subsequent ensiling and anaerobic digestion. Chopping can impact not only ensiling stability, digestibility and risk of process hick-ups in the digester but also harvesting capacity and fuel consumption. Based on field experiment data, the aim of this study was to investigate how three different nominal cutting lengths in the range of 3.5mm to 12.5mm impact methane yield and economic viability of grass ley and whole-crop cereals used as biogas substrate. A shorter cutting length affected the specific methane potential differently for the different crops, +14 to -25%. In biogas vehicle fuel production, balancing the additional energy and economic costs for shorter cutting length required an increased methane potential of less than 1% and 3%, respectively. As long as a decrease in cutting length increased the methane potential, the energy balance and economic result improved, despite higher energy inputs. However, mechanisms behind the impact on methane potential deserve further attention. In conclusion, we have shown that it is economically viable to produce methane gas, as a vehicle fuel, from several agricultural crops grown in the south of Sweden, i.e. grass ley and whole-crop rye and wheat, when they are harvested/chopped with a forager, ensiled as biogas feedstocks and processed to methane gas in a large-scale biogas plant.


Methane potential; Energy yield; Anaerobic digestion; Biofuel; Energy crops; Techno-economic assessment

Published in

BioEnergy Research
2019, Volume: 12, number: 1, pages: 137-149