Heaton, Emily (Univ. of Illinois, 1201 W. Gregory Drive, 379, Madigan Lab., Urbana, IL, 61801; Phone: 217 244-6317; Email: ecaveny@uiuc.edu)


Miscanthus: Climate Change Mitigation Potential of a High Yielding Energy Crop in Illinois


E.A. Heaton *, T.B. Voigt, S.P. Long


Energy crops can provide an economical, renewable energy source and a profitable alternative to surplus grain crops. US researchers have focused on switchgrass (Panicum virgatum) as a means to this end, while European investigators have concentrated on Miscanthus (Miscanthus x giganteus).  To date, side-by-side comparisons of mature stands (established at least 3 years) of these crops have not been reported in the peer-reviewed literature.  We examined all peer-reviewed articles describing productivity of these species and extracted dry matter yields, nitrogen fertilization (N) and precipitation/irrigation data.  Statistical analysis revealed that the species differ in their response to water and N. Miscanthus yields averaged 22 Mg/ha (97 observations) compared to average switchgrass yields of 10 Mg/ha (77 observations). The first field trials of Miscanthus and switchgrass in the U.S. were planted in Illinois in June 2002. Here we report that 2nd year yields have already reached the average yields in the literature review. Both crops reached maximum biomass in August with yields of 22.55 Mg/ha and 12.55 Mg/ha for Miscanthus and switchgrass, respectively.  By winter, when energy crops are often harvested, Miscanthus yields had decreased to 19.30 Mg/ha and switchgrass yields to 8.40 Mg/ha, representing a 14% and 33% loss in biomass, respectively.