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ARS Home » Plains Area » Lincoln, Nebraska » Wheat, Sorghum and Forage Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #301294

Research Project: Improving bioenergy and forage plants and production systems for the central U.S.

Location: Wheat, Sorghum and Forage Research

Title: Switchgrass stand establishment: key factors for success

Author
item Mitchell, Robert - Rob
item HARLOW, SUSAN - University Of Vermont

Submitted to: Extension Fact Sheets
Publication Type: Experiment Station
Publication Acceptance Date: 12/16/2013
Publication Date: 12/16/2013
Citation: Mitchell, R., Harlow, S. 2013. Switchgrass stand establishment: key factors for success, Fact Sheet No. 4, CenUSA Bioenergy, Iowa State Univ., Ames, IA. (www.cenusa.iastate.edu). 2013 (Extension Circular).

Interpretive Summary: Successful establishment is critical to the long-term economic viability of a switchgrass stand. But switchgrass establishment is not difficult if precipitation is timely and four key management practices are followed. First, purchase certified seed with excellent seed lot quality. Second, develop a good firm seedbed. Third, plant the seed at the proper time, depth, and rate. Finally, control weeds during the planting year. While money spent on good-quality seed and weed control will likely result in a higher per acre cost for establishment, the reward is rapid establishment of a productive stand with lower costs per ton of biomass over the life of the stand.

Technical Abstract: Switchgrass (Panicum virgatum L.) is not difficult to establish if precipitation is timely and four key management practices are followed. First, purchase certified seed with excellent seed lot quality. Second, develop a good firm seedbed. Third, plant the seed at the proper time, depth, and rate. Finally, control weeds during the planting year. While money spent on good-quality seed and weed control will likely result in a higher per acre cost for establishment, the reward is rapid establishment of a productive stand with lower costs per ton of biomass over the life of the stand. Successful stand establishment is critical to the long-term economic viability of switchgrass stands. Farmers in regions with good soils and favorable precipitation should be able to harvest switchgrass after frost in the planting year. Using bioenergy-specific cultivars such as ‘Liberty’ should produce 3-4 tons per acre in the planting year and 6-8 tons per acre in subsequent years.