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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: Developing Switchgrass As a Bioenergy Crop

Authors
item Mclaughlin, S - DOE, OAK RIDGE NATL LAB
item Bouton, J - UNIVERSITY OF GEORGIA
item Bransby, D - AUBURN UNIVERSITY
item Conger, R - UNIVERSITY OF TN
item Ocumpaugh, W - TEXAS A&M
item Parrish, D - VA POLY TECH INSTITUTE
item Taliaferro, C - OK STATE UNI
item Vogel, Kenneth
item Wullschleger, S - DOE, OAK RIDGE NATL LAB

Submitted to: New Crops and New Uses Biodiversity and Agricultural Sustainability
Publication Type: Proceedings
Publication Acceptance Date: May 15, 1999
Publication Date: September 1, 1999
Citation: Mclaughlin, S.B., Bouton, J., Bransby, D., Conger, R., Ocumpaugh, W., Parrish, D., Taliaferro, C., Vogel, K.P., Wullschleger, S. 1999. Developing switchgrass as a bioenergy crop. New Crops and New Uses Biodiversity and Agricultural Sustainability. p. 282-299

Interpretive Summary: Research designed to evaluate and improve switchgrass (Panicum virgatum) as a bioenergy crop has been conducted by a team of government and university researchers in the southeast and central US. as part of the DOE- sponsored Bioenergy Feedstock Development Program via the Oak Ridge National Laboratory. It has been focused in the areas of yield improvement through management and breeding, physiological and genetic characterization, and applications of biotechnology for regeneration and breeding research. Switchgrasss, a warm season prairie grass, was chosen as the model species because of its perennial growth habit, high yield potential, compatibility with conventional farming practices, and high value in improving soil conservation and quality. Yields of fully established stands of best adapted varieties have averaged approximately 7 tons dry matter per acre in research plots across 18 testing sites which would yield over 5000 l/ha ethanol (500 gal/acre) with 75% conversion effeciency. Management research has been directed at documenting nitrogen, row spacing, and cutting regimes to maximize sustained yields. Significant gains in soil carbon have been documented for switchgrass across a wide range of sites and associated gains in soil quality and erosion control are anticipated in connection with long term production of this species. Breeding research has focused on developing and characterizing an extensive germplasm collection and developing improved breeding methods. Energy budgets indicate that significant gains in energy return and carbon emissions reduction can be achieved with switchgrass as a biofuel crop.

Technical Abstract: Over the past 7 years research designed to evaluate and improve switchgrass (Panicum virgatum) as a bioenergy crop has been conducted by a team of government and university researchers in the southeast and central US. This effort is part of the DOE- sponsored Bioenergy Feedstock Development Program at Oak Ridge National Laboratory and has been focused in the areas of yield improvement through management and breeding, physiological and genetic characterization, and applications of biotechnology for regeneration and breeding research. Switchgrasss, a warm season prairie grass, was chosen as the model species because of its perennial growth habit, high yield potential, compatibility with conventional farming practices, and high value in improving soil conservation and quality. Variety trials have identified three excellent high-yielding switchgrass varieties. Yields of fully established stands of best adapted varieties have averaged approximately 16 Mg*ha-1 in research plots across 18 testing sites, and minimum costs of $1.78-$2.03 MBtu-1 have been estimated for farm-scale production. Management research has been directed at documenting nitrogen, row spacing, and cutting regimes to maximize sustained yields. Significant gains in soil carbon have been documented for switchgrass across a wide range of sites and associated gains in soil quality and erosion control are anticipated in connection with long term production of this species. Breeding research has focused on developing and characterizing an extensive germplasm collection, characterizing breeding behavior traits, and both narrow and broader base selection for yield improvement for both marginal and better quality soils. Energy budgets indicate that significant gains in energy return and carbon emissions

Last Modified: 7/30/2014
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