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ARS Home » Plains Area » Lincoln, Nebraska » Wheat, Sorghum and Forage Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #322981

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

Location: Wheat, Sorghum and Forage Research

Title: Root biomass and soil carbon response to growing perennial grasses for bioenergy

item KIBET, LEONARD - University Of Nebraska
item BLANCO, HUMBERTO - University Of Nebraska
item Mitchell, Robert - Rob
item SCHACHT, WALTER - University Of Nebraska

Submitted to: Energy, Sustainability and Society
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 11/25/2015
Publication Date: 1/7/2016
Publication URL:
Citation: Kibet, L., Blanco, H., Mitchell, R., Schacht, W. 2016. Root biomass and soil carbon response to growing perennial grasses for bioenergy. Energy, Sustainability and Society. 6(1):1-8 doi:10.1186/s13705-015-0065-5.

Interpretive Summary: Perennial grasses like switchgrass, miscanthus, indiangrass, and big bluestem are potential biofuel feedstocks that can improve soil and environmental quality on marginally productive cropland. We studied the changes in soil properties after 4 years and 6 years of managing warm-season grass monocultures and mixtures for bioenergy production in eastern Nebraska. Fertilization and harvest dates had no effect on soil quality, but root biomass was affected by the species grown on the site. Root biomass for indiangrass monocultures was lower than the other grasses except miscanthus. These results suggest that perennial grasses promote soil quality and few differences exist between monocultures and mixtures managed as bioenergy feedstocks.

Technical Abstract: Dedicated bioenergy crops such as switchgrass (Panicum virgatum L.), miscanthus [Miscanthus x giganteus (Mxg)], indiangrass [Sorghastrum nutans (L.) Nash], and big bluestem (Andropogon gerardii Vitman) can provide cellulosic feedstock for biofuel production while maintaining or improving soil and environmental quality. To better understand bioenergy crop effects on soils, we studied changes in soil properties of a Tomek silt loam under inorganic fertilization of switchgrass after 4 years and warm-season grass monocultures and mixtures after 6 years in eastern Nebraska.