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ARS Home » Southeast Area » Booneville, Arkansas » Dale Bumpers Small Farms Research Center » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #336037

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

Location: Dale Bumpers Small Farms Research Center

Title: Dual-Use Bioenergy-Livestock Feed Potential of Giant Miscanthus, Giant Reed, and Miscane

item BURNER, DAVID - Retired ARS Employee
item Ashworth, Amanda
item Pote, Daniel
item Kiniry, James
item BELESKY, DAVID - West Virginia University
item HOUX, JAMES - University Of Missouri
item CARVER, PAUL - New Energy Farms
item FRITSCHI, FELIX - University Of Missouri

Submitted to: Agricultural Sciences
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 1/20/2017
Publication Date: 1/23/2017
Citation: Burner, D.M., Ashworth, A.J., Pote, D.H., Kiniry, J.R., Belesky, D.P., Houx, J.H., Carver, P., Fritschi, F.B. 2017. Dual-use bioenergy-livestock feed potential of giant miscanthus, giant reed, and miscane. Agricultural Sciences. 8:97-112.

Interpretive Summary: Many small commercial livestock farms find it difficult to remain profitable, and their survival may depend on the ability to adjust quickly when market conditions change. Livestock forages that contain enough combustible energy to also satisfy emerging bioenergy markets could provide these farmers with dual-use options to help them minimize risk and maximize production efficiency. To begin developing those options, USDA-ARS and university researchers studied three species of perennial grasses (giant miscanthus, giant reed, and miscane) to compare nutritive value and energy content during the first three years after planting. Results suggested that miscane and giant reed could potentially serve as livestock forages as well as bioenergy sources; but giant reed is not currently recommended for planting, and feeding trials would be necessary before either species could actually be recommended for livestock consumption. This study is of interest to farmers, scientists, and agency personnel because it helps identify perennial plant species that could potentially offer dual-use as a bioenergy source and/or livestock forage.

Technical Abstract: High yielding perennial grasses could integrate bioenergy-livestock operations, thereby, offsetting diversions of cropland to lignocellulosic crops, but research is needed to determine chemical composition and digestibility of leaf and stem fractions that might affect downstream uses. The objective of this study was to compare feedstock quality of leaf and stem tissues of dedicated bioenergy feedstocks: giant miscanthus (Miscanthus x giganteus), giant reed (Arundo donax), and miscane (Saccharum hybrid x Miscanthus spp) when grown with or without supplemental irrigation on an upland site. Three species were space-planted on a silt loam soil in March 2007 and harvested prior to the first freeze in plant-cane, first ratoon, and second-ratoon crops for three years. Giant miscanthus leaf tissue had highest acid detergent lignin and cellulose, and lowest concentrations of nitrogen (N) and total nonstructural carbohydrates (TNC) in ratoon crops. Giant reed leaf tissue had greatest concentrations of in vitro digestible dry matter (IVDMD), TNC, and N (P< 0.05). Conversely, miscane stem tissue had greatest concentrations of IVDMD, TNC, and hemicellulose, and low dry matter and combustible energy (P< 0.05). Results suggest all species have positive feedstock attributes for thermochemical bioenergy conversion, albeit giant miscanthus has very little potential value as fodder. Miscane stem and giant reed leaf tissue have potential value as livestock feed, although giant reed is not currently recommended for planting. Further research is needed on dietary composition, acceptability, voluntary intake, and live weight gain before any of these species are recommended as livestock feed sources.