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Ecophysiological effects of the utilisation of non-conventional water resources on fallow land for the aim of economically profitable and environmentally sustainable energy production.

Kaja M. H. Bauer (2013)

Masterthesis vom 26.08.2013

 

Ecophysiological effects of the utilisation of non-conventional water resources on fallow land for the aim of economically profitable and environmentally sustainable energy production.


Ökophysiologische Auswirkungen der Nutzung von unkonventionellen Wasserressourcen auf Brachland, zum Ziel der wirtschaftlich rentablen und ökologisch nachhaltigen Energieerzeugung.


Abstract

Water scarcity and desertification are an increasing worldwide problem for agriculture in arid or semiarid regions. Evapotranspiration removes water from the soil and increases the salt concentration in the soil surface. About 43 % of the world’s land mass has fallen arid, about 98 % of the water is saline and fresh water supply will be increasingly lacking in the future. Considering growing world population, problems arise, which address aspects of food crop cultivation and irrigation (in order to cultivate food crops for biomass production) and leads to the competition between two main demands of humanity, food and fuel. The problem could be reduced when plants, not necessarily one of the known food crops, could be cultivated and irrigated with unconventional, marginal water resources (brackish or even saline water). An economically feasible solution could be to cultivate halophytes on arid lands and nearby greening desert land in the coastal regions (in order to use them for alternative energy production.).

Phragmites carca is a perennial grass (Poaceae) grown naturally in brackish marshland (tolerant of flooding) and known to produce plenty of non-food ligno-cellulosic biomass under saline conditions. Further it is considered to be a good candidate for alternative energy production (biofuel). The aim of this thesis is to prove if the application of nonconventional water resources (including seawater and sewage water) are suitable to too revalue degraded areas, reducing thereby the pressure on the limited fresh water resources.

A precondition for sustainable utilisation of P. carca is the precise information about its salt resistance level (threshold) and the various mechanisms enabling it to grow and survival at saline habitats. The growth performance (growth and biomass production) and ecophysilogical parameter (related to the stress response) of P. carca will be studied in present work at different seawater salinities in order to find optimal conditions for P. carca cultivation and biomass production. Therefore sea water was diluted with sewage water. Additional treatments such as sewage sludge and biochar were also applied to alleviate possible salt-induced effects and to improve plant performance and biomass production under saline conditions. Cultivation of P. carca was done in hydroponics. To get an overview about the plant response and salt tolerance mechanisms, P. carca growth (fresh and dry weights, leaf number and shoot/root ratio), water relations (water content, water potentials), gas-exchange parameters was measured and composition of minerals and compatible solutes in different plant sections and lignocellulose biomass was planned to measure. In addition further special investigations (i.e. proteomics) were expected to complete the view about salt tolerance mechanisms of this.

It was found a constant decreasing growth and biomass production of P. carca with increasing salinity and decreasing sewage water content due to the increasing unavailability of water. Increasing sea water concentrations and simultaneously decreasing sewage water concentrations led to crossing effects on P. carca plants indicating that stress responses in plants are multifactorial and require further examinations. However, it was found a moderately salt-induced improvement of gas exchange at 20 % sea water salinity and 80 % sewage water content with no positive effect on growth.