Miscanthus

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The activities leading to these results have received funding from the European Union Seventh Framework Program (FP7/2007-2013) under grant agreement nr.  289159.

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Compared to other perennial grasses like switchgrass

(Panicum virgatum), giant reed (Arundo donax) and reed canary grass (Phalaris arundinacea) it has some advantages. Of these four grasses, only miscanthus and switchgrass have the C4 photosynthetic pathway. In contrast to the so-called C3 crops, C4 crops are characterised by a greater water-use efficiency (WUE) - approximately twice that of C3 crops - and a higher biomass production potential. However, this is not the case for very cool regions such as Sweden and Finland where temperature limits the photosynthetic process. Here C3 grasses perform better. In temperate to all warmer regions, miscanthus by far out-yields C3 grasses like reed canary grass.

Switchgrass is native to America and has been chosen as the bioenergy "model" crop in the US. Yet recent studies, comparing miscanthus and switchgrass have shown that the yield potential of miscanthus is significantly higher (30 - 50%) than that of switchgrass.

 

For the C3 grass giant reed (Arundo donax), similar yield potentials as for miscanthus have been reported for southern Europe. It is widely distributed in areas surrounding the Mediterranean Sea and is suitable for biomass production in subtropical and warm-temperate areas. However, as a biomass grass, giant reed has the disadvantage of inhomogenous quality and relatively wet biomass at harvest because stems arise throughout the whole growing period and do not emerge at the same time.

Investigations also could show; that ash, silicon and alkali contents of giant reed biomass are much higher, and heating value is much lower, than those of miscanthus biomass. Giant reed can potentially also become an invasive species and has been found to be invasive in California and Florida in the US. Invasiveness is a critical issue in the development of perennial energy crops including miscanthus. Invasiveness in miscanthus is minimised by non-flowering and hybrid sterility strategies.

The production of miscanthus offers many ecological opportunities. Miscanthus has a strong carbon sequestration potential. Reports indicate a sequestration potential of 0.6 - 1 tonne of carbon per hectare and year. According to studies of, the carbon sequestration potential may exceed that of switchgrass.


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