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Influence Of Species Composition And Management On Biomass Production In Missouri

Ranjith P. Udawatta, Clark J. Gantzer, Timothy M. Reinbott, Ray L. Wright, Robert A. Pierce Robert, Walter Wehtje

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Perennial biofuel crops help to reduce both dependence on fossil fuels and greenhouse gas emissions while utilizing nutrients more efficiently compared to annual crops. In addition, perennial crops grown for biofuels have the potential to produce high biomass yields, are capable of increased carbon sequestration, and are beneficial for reducing soil erosion. Various monocultures and mixtures of perennial grasses and forbs can be established to achieve these benefits. The objective of this study was to quantify the effects of feedstock mixture and cutting height on yields. The base feedstock treatments included a monoculture of switchgrass (SG) and a switchgrass:big bluestem 1:1 mixture (SGBBS). Other treatments included mixtures of the base feedstock with ratios of base to native forbs plus legumes of 100:0, 80:20, 60:40, and 20:80. The study was established in 2008. Biomass crops typically require 2 to 3 years to produce a uniform stand. Therefore, harvest data were collected from July 2010 to July 2013. Three harvest times were selected to represent (1) biomass for biofuel (March), (2) forage (July), and (3) forage and biomass (October). Annual mean yields varied between 4.97 Mg ha−1 in 2010 to 5.56 Mg ha−1 in 2011. However, the lowest yield of 2.82 Mg ha−1 in March and the highest yield of 7.18 Mg ha−1 in July were harvested in 2013. The mean yield was 5.21 Mg ha−1 during the 4 year study. The effect of species mixture was not significant on yield. The cutting height was significant (p < 0.001), with greater yield for the 15 cm compared to the 30 cm cutting height. Yield differences were larger between harvest times during the early phase of the study. Yield difference within a harvest time was not significant for 3 of the 10 harvests. Future studies should examine changes in biomass production for mixture composition with time for selection of optimal regional specific species mixtures.