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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: The Development of Switchgrass into a Biomass Fuel Crop

Author
item Vogel, Kenneth

Submitted to: University Annual Newsletter
Publication Type: Other
Publication Acceptance Date: June 30, 2006
Publication Date: September 4, 2006
Citation: Vogel, K.P. 2006. The development of switchgrass into a biomass fuel crop. Annual Newsletter. Department of Agronomy and Horticulture, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, NE. pp 8-9. Online at: http://agronomy.unl.edu/newsletter/AgroHort_annual2006newsletter.pdf

Interpretive Summary: In his 2006 State of the Union Address, President Bush advocated the use of renewable energy crops such as switchgrass and other biomass crops to solve national energy problems. Most people are not aware that switchgrass research was first initiated in a cooperative U.S. Department of Agriculture and University of Nebraska research program in the mid-1930’s. In 1936, Dr. Laurence Newell, an Assistant Agronomist with the Bureau of Plant Industry, USDA formally initiated research in the Agronomy Department at the University of Nebraska on switchgrass and other native prairie grasses. The first switchgrass cultivar from this program was Nebraska 28 switchgrass which was jointly released by USDA and the University of Nebraska in 1949. Dr. Newell and his graduate students conducted some of the first genetic studies on switchgrass and also developed the isolation requirements for seed production of switchgrass and other native grasses. He was the first to identify the photoperiod effects of latitude on the adaptation of native grasses on which cultivar adaptation recommendations are now based. He retired in 1994 and was replaced by Dr. Kenneth Vogel. In 1990, research on developing switchgrass into a biomass energy crop was initiated in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Energy and has been active since that time. Research has been on all aspects of developing a full production system for switchgrass grown as a biomass energy crop in the Midwest and Central Great Plains including breeding and genetics, management, feedstock quality, economics, and environmental benefits. As a result of this research, a basic set of management guidelines and cultivars are in place for producing switchgrass as a biomass energy crop in this region.

Technical Abstract: In his 2006 State of the Union Address, President Bush advocated the use of renewable energy crops such as switchgrass and other biomass crops to solve national energy problems. Most people are not aware that switchgrass research was first initiated in a cooperative U.S. Department of Agriculture and University of Nebraska research program in the mid-1930’s. In 1936, Dr. Laurence Newell, an Assistant Agronomist with the Bureau of Plant Industry, USDA formally initiated research in the Agronomy Department at the University of Nebraska on switchgrass and other native prairie grasses. The first switchgrass cultivar from this program was Nebraska 28 switchgrass which was jointly released by USDA and the University of Nebraska in 1949. Dr. Newell and his graduate students conducted some of the first genetic studies on switchgrass and also developed the isolation requirements for seed production of switchgrass and other native grasses. He was the first to identify the photoperiod effects of latitude on the adaptation of native grasses on which cultivar adaptation recommendations are now based. He retired in 1994 and was replaced by Dr. Kenneth Vogel. In 1990, research on developing switchgrass into a biomass energy crop was initiated in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Energy and has been active since that time. Research has been on all aspects of developing a full production system for switchgrass grown as a biomass energy crop in the Midwest and Central Great Plains including breeding and genetics, management, feedstock quality, economics, and environmental benefits. As a result of this research, a basic set of management guidelines and cultivars are in place for producing switchgrass as a biomass energy crop in this region.

Last Modified: 8/22/2014