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Selecting, establishing, and managing switchgrass (Panicum virgatum) for biofuels.

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Abstract

Switchgrass is being widely considered as a feedstock for biofuel production. Much remains to be learned about ideal feedstock characteristics, but switchgrass offers many advantages already and can perhaps be manipulated to offer more. When planning to grow switchgrass, select a cultivar that is well adapted to the location - generally a lowland cultivar for the southern United States and an upland cultivar at higher latitudes. Plant non-dormant seed after soils are well warmed, preferably with no-till methods and always with good weed control. Except for weeds, few pests appear to be widespread; but disease and insect pests could become more important as acreages increase. Fertilization requirements are relatively low, with 50 kg N/ha/year being a good "generic" recommendation where a single harvest is taken after plants have senesced; more will be needed if biomass is harvested while still green. Switchgrass should be harvested no more than twice per year and may generally be expected to produce 12 to >or=20 mg/ha/year across its usual range of distribution. A single harvest may provide for maximum sustainable yields - especially if the harvest is taken after tops die back at the end of the season. Several harvesting technologies are available, but the preferred technology may depend on logistics and economics associated with the local processing point, or biorefinery.

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Parrish, D. J., & Fike, J. H. (2009). Selecting, establishing, and managing switchgrass (Panicum virgatum) for biofuels. Methods in Molecular Biology (Clifton, N.J.). https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-60761-214-8_2

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