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Title: Long-rotation sugarcane in Hawaii sustains high carbon accumulation and radiation use efficiency in 2nd year of growth

item Anderson, Raymond - Ray
item Tirado-Corbala, Rebecca
item Wang, Dong
item Ayars, James

Submitted to: Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 9/29/2014
Publication Date: 10/14/2014
Publication URL:
Citation: Anderson, R.G., Tirado-Corbala, R., Wang, D., Ayars, J.E. 2014. Long-rotation sugarcane in Hawaii sustains high carbon accumulation and radiation use efficiency in 2nd year of growth. Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment. 199:216-224.

Interpretive Summary: There is interest in growing sugarcane in Hawaii for conversion to biofuel via advanced (2nd generation) processes. However, Hawaiian sugarcane has not been studied for factors (such as efficiency in producing biomass and converting solar radiation to biomass) that are critical to the economic and environmental sustainability of advanced biofuels. In this study, we examined the current efficiency and productivity of commercial sugarcane production to establish a baseline for comparison with other crops and practices as well as for comparison with sugarcane grown in other regions of the world. The results indicate that the current two-year production system for Hawaiian sugarcane is more productive than other regions of the world. The two-year cycle may also have higher productivity and efficiency than other common sugarcane production practices. The results will help complete life cycle analyses required under current biofuel policy, which will establish the greenhouse gas reduction potential of Hawaiian grown biofuel crops. The research benefits potential large consumers of Hawaiian biofuels, commercial growers looking to re-establish sugarcane and other high-production energy grasses on abandoned lands elsewhere in Hawaii, and future researchers looking to investigate alternative crops and agronomic practices to optimize biofuel production.

Technical Abstract: Sugarcane has been a major agronomic crop in Hawaii with an unique, high-yield, two-year production system. However,parameters relevant to advanced, cellulosic biofuel production, such as net ecosystem productivity (NEP) and radiation use efficiency (RUE), have not been evaluated in Hawaii under commercial production. Recent demand potential has rekindled interest in Hawaiian grown biofuels; as such, there is a need to understand productivity under changing climate and agronomic practices. To this end, we established two Eddy Covariance towers in commercial sugarcane fields in Maui, Hawaii to evaluate the carbon balance and RUE of sugarcane under contrasting elevations and soil types. We combined the tower observations with biometric and satellite data to assess RUE in terms of net biomass accumulation and daily gross primary production. High, sustained net NEP was found in both fields (cumulative NEP 4.23-5.37 x 10^3 g C m-2 over the course of the measurement period). Biomass RUE was statistically similar for both fields (1.15-1.24 g above ground biomass per MJ intercepted solar irradiance). Carbon accumulated in both fields at nearly the same rate with differences in cumulative biomass due to differing crop cycle lengths; cumulative gross primary productivity and ecosystem respiration were higher in the lower elevation field. Contrary to previous studies in Hawaiian sugarcane, we did not see a large decrease in NEP or increase in ecosystem respiration in the 2nd year, which we attributed to suppressed decomposition of dead cane stalks and leaves due to drip irrigation and drought. Biomass RUE also showed little decline in the 2nd year. The results show that Hawaiian sugarcane has a higher productivity than sugarcane grown in other regions of the world and also suggests that a longer (>12 months) growing cycle may be optimal for biomass production.