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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: GERMPLASM DEVELOPMENT FOR SOUTHERN PLAINS RANGELAND AND PASTURE LANDSCAPES

Location: Rangeland and Pasture Research

Title: Underutilized Grasses.

Authors
item Boe, Arvid -
item Springer, Timothy
item Lee, D -
item Rayburn, A -
item Gonzalez-Hernandez, J -

Submitted to: Book Chapter
Publication Type: Book / Chapter
Publication Acceptance Date: August 22, 2012
Publication Date: N/A

Interpretive Summary: Perennial warm-season grasses have been recognized for having several properties, such as high rates of net photosynthesis, energy and labor savings, and reduced soil and nutrient losses that make them better suited for biofuel production than many annual crops. Two species of perennial grass that have been used as energy crop models are switchgrass (Panicum virgatum L.) and miscanthus (Miscanthus x giganteus). Switchgrass has received considerable research funding over the past 15 years in North America and is expected to contribute to future ligno-cellulosic biomass feedstock production in the Great Plains, Midwest, and Southeast regions of the USA; whereas miscanthus, which has been extensively evaluated for biomass production in Europe and the central and southeastern USA, would be best adapted to the Midwest. Although both species are deemed suitable for biomass production on marginal land, neither is well adapted to land that is marginal for conventional crops due to poorly drained saline soils or coarse-textured droughty soils. Prairie cordgrass (Spartina pectinata Link), big bluestem (Andropogon gerardii Vitman), sand bluestem (Andropogon hallii Hack.), little bluestem [Schizachyrium scoparium (Michx.) Nash], and eastern gamagrass [Tripsacum dactyloides (L.)] have potential to expand the area of marginal land on which production of perennial grass ligno-cellulosic feedstocks can be profitable, sustainable, and environmentally beneficial. These species are ideally adapted to occupy and be productive in agricultural and environmental niches where switchgrass and miscanthus are not adapted. Such niches tend to be on lower and upper landscape positions where soil moisture levels, either excessive or deficient, limit the number of species that can persist and be productive. Also, the use of multiple species enhances biodiversity, stabilizes yields across spatial and temporal variation, and increases environmental benefits on heterogeneous landscapes.

Technical Abstract: Perennial warm-season grasses have been recognized for having several properties, such as high rates of net photosynthesis, energy and labor savings, and reduced soil and nutrient losses that make them better suited for biofuel production than many annual crops. Prairie cordgrass (Spartina pectinata Link), big bluestem (Andropogon gerardii Vitman), sand bluestem (Andropogon hallii Hack.), little bluestem [Schizachyrium scoparium (Michx.) Nash], and eastern gamagrass [Tripsacum dactyloides (L.)] have potential to expand the area of marginal land on which production of perennial grass ligno-cellulosic feedstocks can be profitable, sustainable, and environmentally beneficial. These species are ideally adapted to occupy and be productive in agricultural and environmental niches where switchgrass and miscanthus are not adapted. Such niches tend to be on lower and upper landscape positions where soil moisture levels, either excessive or deficient, limit the number of species that can persist and be productive. Also, the use of multiple species enhances biodiversity, stabilizes yields across spatial and temporal variation, and increases environmental benefits on heterogeneous landscapes

Last Modified: 8/22/2014
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