Evaluating Switchgrass Cultivars for Biomass Potential at Low Soil Fertility
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Evaluating Switchgrass Cultivars for Biomass Potential at Low Soil Fertility George T. Byrd Ferrum College, Ferrum, VA 24088. Purpose. Methods. The use of field crops as an energy source is important because of our need to reduce our dependency on fossil fuel

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The use of field crops as an energy source is important because of our need

Evaluating Switchgrass Cultivars for Biomass Potential at Low Soil FertilityGeorge T. ByrdFerrum College, Ferrum, VA 24088

Purpose

Methods

The use of field crops as an energy source is important because of our need

  • to reduce our dependency on fossil fuel

  • to mitigate anthropogenic atmospheric CO2 release

Field Trial Location & Dates

Ferrum College Agriculture Farm, Ferrum, VA (80°02’ W, 36°55’N; elevation

412 m) 2001 – 2005

Soil Type & History

Hayesville loam (fine, kaolinitic, mesic Typic Kanhapludults)

Pasture - previous botanical composition of tall fescue, orchardgrass, & red clover

pH 5.8 with no fertilizer additions throughout the study

Experimental Design

A complete randomized design

4 switchgrass cultivars

AlamoCave-in-rock

Kanlow Pathfinder

120 seedlings of each cultivar transplanted into the prepared soil (2001)

15 rows established, spaced 0.5 m equidistantly apart

Biomass

Biannual and annual potential yields from 20 randomly selected plants

from each cultivar

Harvested twice during 2002 & 2004 - July & October.

Harvested in 2003 & 2005 in September only

All harvested material removed from the area

Persistence

Determined annually by counting remaining living plants

Switchgrass – Late September

Biomass Results

Yield (Mg/ha-year)

Background

Switchgrass (Panicum virgatum L.) has great potential as a biomass production system to generate biofuel.

Switchgrass is a perennial crop that

  • produces well on marginal crop land.

  • incorporates more carbon as biomass via

    photosynthesis than it loses by burning

    as biofuel.

    Switchgrass as a bioenergy crop may become a successful option for producers as an alternative high value crop with reduced environmental costs.

Cumulative Yield (2002-2005)

Pairwise differences in potential yields of switchgrass were compared with Fisher’s protected LSD values (yields followed by different letters are different (p< 0.01)

Objective

Conclusions

Switchgrass Persistence

  • To be economically suitable, two important criteria must be evaluated – production potential with minimal input and plant persistence. The objective of this study, therefore, was to

  • compare biomass & persistence among

    cultivars of switchgrass grown in infertile soil.

  • The cultivar Alamo produced more biomass

  • Persistence decreased after four years (56-63%)

  • Biomass without fertilizer input was only slightly lower than published data for switchgrass


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