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Impact Of Rhizome Quality On Miscanthus Establishment In Claypan Soil Landscapes

Bryan K. Randall, M. Yost, N. Kitchen, E. Heaton, H. E. Stelzer, A. Thompson
Published 2016 · Biology

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Abstract Thousands of eroded-soil hectares in the U.S. Midwest have been planted to Miscanthus × giganteus as an industrial or bioenergy crop in recent years, but few studies on factors affecting crop establishment have been performed on these soils. The objective of this study was to quantify how both rhizome quality and depth of soil from the surface to the first argillic horizon (or depth to claypan (DTC 1 )) affected M. × giganteus establishment. Rhizome quality (i.e., mass, length, diameter, viable buds, score), emergence, growth, and winter survival were measured on rhizomes planted in 2013 at Columbia and 2014 at Centralia, Missouri on clay loam soils with a range of DTC. Rhizome emergence and early tillering slightly increased as DTC increased, but these effects on growth diminished as the season progressed. Rhizome emergence and growth were more influenced by some metrics of rhizome quality; the odds of a rhizome emerging increased by 25 and 40% with each 1 cm and 1 bud increase in rhizome length and active bud count, respectively. Furthermore, late tiller counts, basal circumference, and end-of-season biomass increased as rhizome length and mass increased. Winter survival could not be estimated as well as emergence, but the odds of survival across sites increased by 5% with each 1 cm increase in rhizome length. When DTC was categorized as soil erosion class or landscape position, only the backslope at Centralia caused greater M. × giganteus growth than other positions. These findings demonstrate the resiliency of M. × giganteus for early growth and establishment on even the most degraded parts of the claypan soil landscape and indicate that propagating larger rhizomes will improve establishment.
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