Submitted to: Agronomy Journal
Publication Type: Peer reviewed journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 10/22/2004
Publication Date: 4/15/2005
Citation: Berdahl, J.D., Frank, A.B., Krupinsky, J.M., Carr, P.M., Hanson, J.D., Johnson, H.A. 2005. Biomass yield of diverse switchgrass cultivars and experimental strains in western North Dakota. Agron. J. 97:549-555. Interpretive Summary: Switchgrass is a long-lived, perennial, warm-season grass that has potential as a biofuel crop in the northern Great Plains. Biomass yields and survival of switchgrass have not been determined in western North Dakota, where production is limited by a short growing season and periodic drought. Eight diverse switchgrass varieties and experimental strains were evaluated at three field sites in western North Dakota for three years. Biomass yield of an adapted variety, Sunburst, at the highest yielding site ranged from 1.4 tons per acre in a drought year to 5.6 tons per acre in a year with above average precipitation. Maximum biomass yield would be obtained from a late-August to mid-September cutting of the variety Sunburst, a time period when small grain harvest is often completed and harvest of late-season crops has not begun. Switchgrass varieties grown more than 300 miles north of their point of origin are not recommended, because of poor winter survival in some years. Biomass yield of switchgrass fluctuates widely from year to year in western North Dakota, depending in large part on available soil water. Nevertheless, the low inputs needed for long-term culture of a perennial grass coupled with environmental benefits from switchgrass are important considerations that favor commercial production of biomass from this grass if biofuel markets develop.
Technical Abstract: Switchgrass (Panicum virgatum L.) has been identified as a potential biofuel crop for the northern Great Plains region of the USA. Biomass yield, dry matter percentage, stand percentage, and plant height of eight diverse switchgrass cultivars and experimental strains were measured for 3 yr at three field sites in western North Dakota to determine their adaptation and stability of performance. Harvest treatments were single annual cuttings in mid-August and mid-September. Except for 'Dacotah', ND3743, and 'Sunburst', all other entries originated greater than 500 km south of the evaluation sites and were subject to winter injury. Sunburst, from southern South Dakota, ranked first or second in biomass yield in all environments and was the top yielding entry in all environments in the third production year, a drought year at all sites. Trailblazer ranked first, second, or third in biomass yield in all environments, while yield ranking of the other entries was not consistent. Genotype X environment interactions occurred for biomass yield and would be expected based on the wide range in origin among the eight populations. Stand percentage was equal for the two harvest dates, but all eight populations averaged higher biomass yields at the mid-September (5.98 Mg/ha) than the mid-August harvest (5.51 Mg/ha). Biomass yield of Sunburst at the highest yielding site ranged from 3.20 Mg/ha in a drought year to 12.48 Mg/ha in a year with above average precipitation. Biomass yield of adapted switchgrass cultivars fluctuates widely in western North Dakota, depending in large part on available soil water.