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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: Developing Switchgrass into a Biomass Fuel Crop for the Midwestern Usa

Authors
item Vogel, Kenneth
item Masters, Robert

Submitted to: Biomass and Bioenergy
Publication Type: Proceedings
Publication Acceptance Date: August 20, 1998
Publication Date: N/A

Interpretive Summary: USDA-ARS and University of Nebraska long term cooperative research on switchgrass was expanded in 1990 to include development of switchgrass into a biomass fuel crop. Initial research evaluated all available cultivars and elite strains at three Midwestern locations and identified cultivars and strains that had the most potential for use as biofuel crops. The highest yielding strains produced over 6 tons of biomass per year which would yiel over 500 gal/acre ethanol with a conversion efficiency of 75%. Subsequent research has focused on specific breeding, genetics, and production problems. The optimum stage of growth and time period for harvest of switchgrass biomass in the Midwest was determined as well as optimal fertilization rates. A three week harvest period after plants were fully headed (about July 20 to August 15) and a fertilization rate of 120 lb N/acre produced optimal biomass yields. It was determined that switchgrass sis a micorrhizae (VAM) dependent plant, but inoculation will not be necessary because of VAM levels in agricultural soils. Information was developed that will allow a new herbicide to be registered for weed control during the establishment year. Genetic information to develop switchgrass hybrids was developed as well as the first molecular genetic markers for switchgrass. The breeding goal is to develop cultivars that can produce annual yields of 10 tons of biomass per acre in the Midwest.

Technical Abstract: USDA & University of Nebraska research on switchgrass was expanded in 1990 to include development of switchgrass into a biomass fuel crop. Initial research evaluated all available cultivars and elite strains at three Midwestern locations and identified cultivars and strains that had the most potential for use as biofuel crops. Highest yielding strains produced over 14,000 kg/ha biomass per year and over 10,000 kg/ha of cellulose + hemicellulose which would yield over 5000 l/ha ethanol (500 gal/acre) with conversion efficiency of 75%. Subsequent research has focused on specific breeding, genetics,and production problems.Optimum stage of growth and time period for harvest of switchgrass biomass in the Midwest was a three week period after plants were fully headed (about July 20 to August 15) and the optimum fertilization rate was 120 kg N/ha.It was determined that switch- grass is a micorrhizae (VAM) dependent plant, but inoculation will not be necessary because of VAM levels in agricultural soils. Information was developed that will allow a new herbicide to be registered for weed control during the establishment year. Genetic information to develop switchgrass hybrids was developed as well as the first molecular genetic markers for switchgrass. The breeding goal is to develop cultivars that can produce annual yields of 22Mg/ha in the Midwest.

Last Modified: 8/1/2014
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