Findings prove Miscanthus x giganteus has great potential as an alternative energy source. Image: Tom Voigt, University of Illinois
about the worldwide energy supply and national, environmental and
economic security have resulted in a search for alternative energy
sources. A new University of Illinois study shows Miscanthus x giganteus (M. x giganteus) is a strong contender in the race to find the next source of ethanol if appropriate growing conditions are identified.
M. x giganteus
is a bioenergy crop that can be grown to produce ethanol. The study
investigated the establishment success, plant growth and dry biomass
yield of the grass. Tom Voigt, lead scientist and associate professor in
the U of I Department of Crop Sciences, said the overall goal is to
promote biomass yield per acre for ethanol production using the fewest
inputs with no environmental damage.
compared establishment and growth rates, and biomass yield at four
locations over the past three years to identify regions best suited for
the grass. Data was collected at sites in Urbana, Ill.; Lexington, Ky.;
Mead, Neb.; and Adelphia, N.J. The study is part of the Department of
Energy-funded North Central Sun Grant Feedstock Partnership Project.
growing conditions were adequate at each location in different years.
However, late planting and extreme winter temperatures during 2008
affected establishment rates at the Illinois site. Lower yields occurred
at the New Jersey site in 2010, which could be attributed to the site’s
sandy soils and warm, dry weather conditions in that year.
the most part, we found that Miscanthus responds to sites in which
water is adequately available,” Voigt said. “The combination of warm
temperatures and adequate precipitation spread throughout the growing
season creates ideal growing conditions.”
Voigt said the study increased researchers’ understanding of how different environments impact M. x giganteus growth, development and biomass yield. In addition, they discovered positive environmental impacts.
Nitrogen fertilizer had no significant effects on the grass’s biomass yield in season two or three at any site. M. x giganteus also promotes erosion control as the perennial forms a large mass of roots underground.
are trying to develop a recipe for management practices that can be
used by farmers interested in growing the grass,” Voigt said. “We want
bioenergy crops to find their way into more marginal settings where
ground is less easy to work with. Miscanthus can work where food crops
Voigt said the results of the study are positive and prove that energy crops have great potential as alternative energy sources.
is principal investigator for the Feedstock Production Agronomy Program
at the Energy Biosciences Institute (EBI) located in the Institute for
Genomic Biology. The EBI is a biofuels research consortium that includes
the University of Illinois, the University of California at Berkeley,
Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, and funding agency BP.