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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: INTEGRATED AGRICULTURAL SYSTEMS FOR THE NORTHERN GREAT PLAINS

Location: Northern Great Plains Research Laboratory

Title: Crop management for switchgrass

Authors
item SANDERSON, MATT
item SCHMER, MARTY
item Owens, Vance -
item Keyser, Patrick -
item Elbersen, Wolter -

Submitted to: Book Chapter
Publication Type: Book / Chapter
Publication Acceptance Date: February 10, 2012
Publication Date: February 21, 2012
Citation: Sanderson, M.A., Schmer, M.R., Owens, V., Keyser, P., Elbersen, W. 2012. Crop management for switchgrass. Book Chapter. p. 87-112. IN: A. Monti. Switchgrass, a valuable biomass crop for energy. Springer-Verlag, NY.

Interpretive Summary: Early in the development of switchgrass as a bioenergy crop it was assumed that management for bioenergy would be similar to forage management. Although management for bioenergy and forage share some commonalities, of particular interest in bioenergy crop production is: (i) rapid establishment of switchgrass to generate harvestable biomass in the seeding year, (ii) highly efficient management of soil and fertilizer N to minimize external energy inputs, and (iii) harvest management to maximize yields of lignocellulose. In this chapter, we layout the key best management practices for switchgrass as a bioenergy crop including establishment, soil fertility, pest management, and harvest. Harvest management may differ the most between bioenergy and forage cropping because the goal is to maximize yields of lignocellulose in bioenergy rather than to optimize forage yield and forage quality. Bioenergy cropping may entail management for multiple services in addition to biomass yield including soil C sequestration, wildlife habitat, landscape management, and water quality protection. Management is a critical factor especially as land classified as marginal or idle land will be emphasized for bioenergy production to reduce conflicts with food production. Marginal land may also be more risky. We focus mainly on the areas of divergence between forage and bioenergy management and thoroughly synthesize and interpret the latest scientific literature.

Technical Abstract: Management for bioenergy and forage share some commonalities, of particular interest in bioenergy crop production is: (i) rapid establishment of switchgrass to generate harvestable biomass in the seeding year, (ii) highly efficient management of soil and fertilizer N to minimize external energy inputs, and (iii) harvest management to maximize yields of lignocellulose. Bioenergy cropping may entail management for multiple services in addition to biomass yield including soil C sequestration, wildlife habitat, landscape management, and water quality protection. Management is a critical factor especially as land classified as marginal or idle land will be emphasized for bioenergy production to reduce conflicts with food production. Marginal land may also be more risky. To date, there has been no long-term commercial production of switchgrass on a large scale and there is little in the way of hands-on, practical farm experience with switchgrass managed as a bioenergy crop. In this chapter, we layout the key best management practices for switchgrass as a bioenergy crop including establishment, soil fertility, pest management, and harvest. Where management protocols translate well from and are firmly founded in forage management, we briefly summarize and direct the reader to the appropriate authoritative source. We focus mainly on the areas of divergence between forage and bioenergy management and thoroughly synthesize and interpret the latest scientific literature.

Last Modified: 7/25/2014