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The Center for Native Grasslands Management

Title: Nutrient uptake dynamics and biofuel potential of switchgrass in Maryland
Year: 2002
Author(s): Staver, K. W.
Source Title: Proceedings of the Third Eastern Native Grass Symposium
Source Type: Proceedings
pages: 267-275
Original Publication:  
Abstract: Warm season grasses are being widely promoted in Maryland through state and federal programs to enhance wildlife habitat and reduce nonpoint source pollution from agriculture. They are being planted primarily in buffer areas next to streams and wetlands. However, with recent concerns regarding global climate change due to increasing atmospheric CO2 concentrations, the potential for using warm-season grasses as a renewable energy source has received increasing attention. In addition, options are needed to make buffer areas economically viable if subsidy programs are no longer available, without unduly sacrificing water quality and wildlife benefits. The primary objective of this study is to evaluate biofuel production and nutrient uptake capabilities of switchgrass and eastern gamagrass under a range of nutrient loading conditions. Replicated plots of eastern gamagrass and switchgrass (Kanlow) were planted in 1996. Nitrate leaching has been monitored continuously since the 1996 growing season. In June 1998 poultry litter was applied at 3 and 6 tons/acre. In May 2000 an additional switchgrass treatment was established that received an application of 112 kg N/ha as ammonium nitrate. Above-ground dry matter and nutrient content were measured in early September 1998 and plots were harvested in early April 1999 just prior to the onset of new growth. It was determined that biofuel characteristics would be greatly improved by delaying harvest until spring due to leaching of K with relatively little loss of total yield. It also was determined the eastern gamagrass had relatively little potential as a biofuel crop but was superior to switchgrass in term of potential four total N uptake. In subsequent years, plots were harvested in spring with no additional nutrient applications. Spring-harvest yield, nutrient uptake, and energy content data from 1999-2002 will be presented along with a brief description of the small-scale boiler system installed to utilize switchgrass.
Publisher: The North Carolina Botanical Garden, Chapel Hill, NC, October 1-3, 2002. Omnipress, Madison, WI
Editor(s): J. Randall