Yield Projections for Switchgrass as a Biofuel Crop

12 Jul 2010 --- A team of researchers from Oak Ridge National Laboratory and Dartmouth College published just such a study in the July-August 2010 Agronomy Journal, published by the American Society of Agronomy.

12 Jul 2010 --- While scientists have conducted numerous studies on production of biomass from biofuel crops, such as switchgrass, no one has yet compiled this information to evaluate the response of biomass yield to soils, climate, and crop management across the United States.

A team of researchers from Oak Ridge National Laboratory and Dartmouth College published just such a study in the July-August 2010 Agronomy Journal, published by the American Society of Agronomy. The researchers used peer-reviewed publications to evaluate switchgrass yield as it relates to site location, plot size, stand age, harvest frequency, fertilizer application, climate, and land quality. Switchgrass is one type of crop under consideration for use as a feedstock for advanced biofuels.

The scientists compiled a total of 1,190 biomass yield observations for both lowland and upland types of switchgrass grown from 39 field sites across the United States. Observations were pulled from 18 publications that reported results from field trials in 17 states, from Beeville, TX in the south, to Munich, ND in the Midwest, and Rock Springs, PA in the northeast.

Among the many factors examined, statistical analysis revealed that much of the variation in yield could be accounted for by variation in growing season precipitation, annual temperature, nitrogen fertilization, and they type of switchgrass.

Lowland switchgrass outperformed upland varieties at most locations, except at northern latitudes. Annual yields averaged 12.9 metric tons per hectare for lowland and 8.7 metric tons for upland ecotypes. Some field sites in Alabama, Texas and Oklahoma reported biomass yields greater than 28 metric tons per hectare using the lowland cultivars Kanlow and Alamo.

The research team did not observe any bias for higher yields associated with experimental plot size, row spacing, or with preferential establishment of stands on high quality lands. A model developed from the data, based on long-term climate records, projected maximum yields in a corridor westward from the mid-Atlantic coast to Kansas and Oklahoma. Low precipitation west of the Great Plans limited yields in that region.

“Field trials are often planted to provide local estimates of crop production,” said Stan Wullschleger, a crop physiologist who led the study. “However, viewed in a broader context, results from individual field trials can contribute to a larger perspective and provide regional to national scale estimates of yield and the variables that determine that yield.”

Lee Lynd, co-author on the article and Steering Committee Chair of the Global Sustainable Bioenergy Project observed, “This is the largest data base analyzed to date for energy crop productivity as a function of geographically distributed variables. The finding that there is no bias with respect to either plot size or land productivity is important. A promising future direction is to apply the modeling approaches taken here to additional bioenergy crops at a global scale in combination with various land use scenarios.”

Scientists at Oak Ridge National Laboratory and Dartmouth College continue to explore factors involved in the production of biomass from switchgrass and other dedicated energy crops. One of the lessons learned from the current analysis is that yield data from an even broader range of soil and climatic conditions will be useful in building better predictive models. Future studies should extend the geographic distribution of field trials and thus improve our understanding of biomass production for promising biofuels like switchgrass.
 

Related Articles

Business News

SunOpta Increases Stake in Ethiopian Organic Sesame Operation

27 May 2015 --- SunOpta’s wholly-owned subsidiary Tradin Organic Agriculture B.V., part of the Global Ingredients segment, has enhanced its global sourcing capabilities with an increase in its ownership position in Selet Hulling PLC, a premier supplier of organic sesame. Tradin now owns 76 percent of the joint venture of Selet Hulling, located in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and as a result, has obtained full management control of the operation.

Business News

Mondelez International's Cocoa Life Sustainability Program Fully Operational in Indonesia

19 May 2015 --- Mondelez International, the world's largest chocolate company, announced its $400 million Cocoa Life program is fully operational in Indonesia, the world's third largest cocoa origin and the biggest cocoa origin in Asia.

Food Ingredients News

US Food Industry Changes Tack on GM Labelling

18 May 2015 --- The debate in the US over whether and how to label food containing genetically modified organisms, or rather how to label foods that do not contain GMOs, stepped up a gear last week. US Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack appeared to leak details of a new scheme, under which food processors can verify their products GMO-free.

Business News

Hefty Commodity Supply Levels Keep Global Food Prices Low

08 May 2015 --- International prices for agricultural commodities continued to decline in April and abundant inventories are poised to offset any pressure from the slight reduction in global harvests expected this year. Worldwide cereal production will likely decline by 1.5 percent from last year's record-breaking output, mainly due to reduced acreage planted with maize , but the impact will be cushioned by "exceptionally high" levels of existing stocks, according to the latest forecasts in the UN FAO's new biannual Food Outlook report.

Food Ingredients News

KEY INTERVIEW: How Cosucra Rode the Rise of the Vegetable Protein Market

04 May 2015 --- Belgian company Cosucra Groupe Warcoing is no stranger to change and to keeping up with the times. With vegetable protein products and derivatives being a leading trend to look out for in 2015, according to Innova Market Insights' 2015 trends, Pisane was well ahead of the game, when in 1990, it started production of its pea protein Pisane. Product Manager Angelo Buyck talked to FoodIngredientsFirst about how the vegetable protein market has developed.

More Articles