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Nutrient Partitioning And Carbon And Nitrogen Mineralization Of Switchgrass Plant Parts

H. Shahandeh, C.-Y. Chou, F. M. Hons, M. A. Hussey
Published 2011 · Environmental Science

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Switchgrass (Panicum virgatum L.) is a native warm-season (C4) grass that has the potential to be used as a bioenergy crop and reduce increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2). Continuous production and removal of switchgrass, however, may deplete soil fertility. A strategy of returning plant components higher in nutrients to the field during harvest may help maintain soil fertility. In this study, nutrient partitioning in switchgrass parts over time and their C and N mineralization patterns in soil were determined. Switchgrass (cv. Alamo) was harvested on a biweekly schedule from June to October, with plants from each harvest separated into six parts (top, middle, and bottom leaves and stems) for mineral and fiber analysis. Plant materials from three harvests were used in an incubation study to determine effects of plant component, age, and composition on carbon (C) and nitrogen (N) mineralization. Results indicated that a strategy of returning specific plant parts to the field would not substantially conserve soil nutrients without proportionally decreasing materials available for bioenergy production. Structural components (cell wall and cellulose) were dominant factors affecting the quantity of C mineralized. Approximately 50% of C added as switchgrass was mineralized after 100 days of incubation. Soil N immobilization was observed in all switchgrass plant part treatments.
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