Improved Feedstock Option or Invasive Risk? Comparing Establishment and Productivity of Fertile Miscanthus × giganteus to Miscanthus sinensis
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The perennial grass genus Miscanthus has great promise as biomass feedstock, but there are concerns about potential invasion outside production fields. While the sterile hybrid Miscanthus × giganteus is currently one of the leading feedstock options due to its low invasive potential, fertile varieties are being developed to reduce establishment costs, and their invasive risks need to be further assessed. We performed seed addition experiments in Ohio and Iowa, USA to examine the establishment, flowering, persistence, and shoot biomass per plot of a fertile M. × giganteus biotype (‘PowerCane’) and two Miscanthus sinensis biotypes, one feral, and one ornamental. Seeds were added to small, replicated plots in each of the 2 years under two seeding densities and two competition treatments, and plots were monitored for 2–3 years. The ‘PowerCane’ biotype established better, survived better, and produced greater amounts of biomass per plot than both M. sinensis biotypes. All three biotypes flowered by the second or third year after establishment, with inflorescences more numerous in ‘PowerCane’ and the Ornamental M. sinensis biotypes. Effects of seeding density and competition on these patterns were minor in most cases. Our research suggests that ‘PowerCane’ exhibits many traits shared by both biomass crops and invasive species: multi-year persistence, high biomass potential, and fertility. We suggest that the benefits of a seeded M. × giganteus should be carefully weighed against its increased invasive risk prior to deployment across the landscape.
KeywordsBioenergy crops Biofuels Biomass Weed Survival
This paper was supported by the USDA Biotechnology Risk Assessment Grants Program competitive grant no. 2012-33522-19961—National Institute of Food and Agriculture, by capacity grant no. IOW05466 from the USDA-National Institute of Food and Agriculture, and by the Iowa State University Department of Agronomy. We would like to thank Fernando Miguez for statistical support and Tahir Ibrahim for his help in conducting the experiment.
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