Halophyte Plants and Their Residues as Feedstock for Biogas Production — Chances and Challenges

    • Appl. Sci. 2021, 11, 2746
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    Author(s) - alphabetically sorted:

    Cayenne, A.; Papenbrock, J.; Turcios, A. ; Uellendahl, Hinrich

    The importance of green technologies is steadily growing. Salt-tolerant plants have been proposed as energy crops for cultivation on saline lands. Halophytes such as Salicornia europaea, Tripolium pannonicum, Crithmum maritimum and Chenopodium quinoa, among many other species, can be cultivated in saline lands, in coastal areas or for treating saline wastewater, and the biomass might be used for biogas production as an integrated process of biorefining. However, halophytes have different salt tolerance mechanisms, including compartmentalization of salt in the vacuole, leading to an increase of sodium in the plant tissues. The sodium content of halophytes may have an adverse effect on the anaerobic digestion process, which needs adjustments to achieve stable and efficient conversion of the halophytes into biogas. This review gives an overview of the specificities of halophytes that needs to be accounted for using their biomass as feedstocks for biogas plants in order to expand renewable energy production. First, the different physiological mechanisms of halophytes to grow under saline conditions are described, which lead to the characteristic composition of the halophyte biomass, which may influence the biogas production. Next, possible mechanisms to avoid negative effects on the anaerobic digestion process are described, with an overview of full-scale applications. Taking all these aspects into account, halophyte plants have a great potential for biogas and methane production with yields similar to those produced by other energy crops and the simultaneous benefit of utilization of saline soils.