Skip to main content
ARS Home » Southeast Area » Booneville, Arkansas » Dale Bumpers Small Farms Research Center » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #289134

Research Project: Sustainable Small Farm and Organic Production Systems for Livestock and Agroforestry

Location: Dale Bumpers Small Farms Research Center

Title: Ratoon Cold Tolerance of Pennisetum, Erianthus and Saccharum Bioenergy Feedstocks

item BURNER, DAVID - Retired ARS Employee
item Hale, Anna
item Viator, Ryan
item BELESKY, DAVID - West Virginia University
item HOUX III, JAMES - University Of Missouri
item Ashworth, Amanda
item FRITSCHI, FELIX - University Of Missouri

Submitted to: Industrial Crops and Products
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 8/14/2017
Publication Date: 9/24/2017
Citation: Burner, D.M., Hale, A.L., Viator, R.P., Belesky, D.P., Houx III, J.H., Ashworth, A.J., Fritschi, F.B. 2017. Ratoon Cold Tolerance of Pennisetum, Erianthus and Saccharum Bioenergy Feedstocks. Industrial Crops and Products. 109C(2017)327-334.

Interpretive Summary: Bioenergy conversion of high yielding grass species of tropical origin could help meet goals for energy independence and also provide ecosystem services. For widespread adoption throughout temperate regions, their ratooning ability, defined as the capacity to regrow from underground buds following overwintering, needs further study. We conducted two field tests of elephantgrass, Old World Erianthus, and sugarcane at Booneville, Arkansas primarily to assess ratoon cold tolerance, but plant cane (first year growth) yield and feedstock quality composition also were measured. In the first test, species differed in ratoon emergence in the order sugarcane greater than erianthus greater than elephantgrass when temperatures were as low as 9.1 F. Sugarcane was the only species with ratoon emergence in the second test, but emergence was poor because temperatures were as low as 0.9 F. Elephantgrass had twice the plant cane yield of the other species. Feedstock quality was generally similar among species but, as expected, sugarcane had a higher sugar concentration than other species. Emergence was too poor at this latitude for any of these species to be seriously considered as perennial bioenergy feedstocks, but plants selected here could be useful for breeding cold tolerant varieties for more southerly latitudes.

Technical Abstract: Use of perennial bioenergy grasses would be enhanced if they produced sustainable ratoon crops across a wide geographic region. Our objective was to compare ratoon cold tolerance (defined as shoot emergence during the first-ratoon crop), and plant cane dry mass yield and feedstock quality [acid detergent lignin, cellulose, hemicellulose, total nonstructural carbohydrates (TNC), and combustible energy] of elephantgrass (Pennisetum purpureum), Old World Erianthus (Saccharum arundinaceum, formerly E. arundinaceus, subsequently referred to as Erianthus), and sugarcane (Saccharum sp. hybrids). The experiment (Test 1) was conducted near Booneville, Arkansas (35.08oN latitude) and consisted of three varieties of elephantgrass and Erianthus, and six of sugarcane, evaluated in plant cane (first year growth, 2008) and first-ratoon (second year growth, 2009). The experiment was repeated in 2009-2010 (Test 2). Absolute minimum air temperatures were -12.7 and -17.3oC in Test 1 and 2, respectively. Second-year emergence in Test 1 was in the order sugarcane = Erianthus (92%) > elephantgrass (25%). In Test 2, sugarcane and Erianthus had 63 and 3% second-year emergence, respectively, whereas elephantgrass shoots did not emerge. Elephantgrass had twice the plant cane yield of the other species. Feedstock quality was generally similar among species, although sugarcane had greater TNC (220 g kg-1) than other species (< 131 g kg-1). Poor ratooning of all 12 varieties would limit their use as perennial bioenergy feedstocks in similar environments, however, breeders using germplasm selected under these conditions could ultimately enhance ratoon cold tolerance of commercial sugarcane varieties for more southerly latitudes.