BioEnergy Research

, Volume 5, Issue 4, pp 801–813 | Cite as

Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Nitrate Leaching, and Biomass Yields from Production of Miscanthus × giganteus in Illinois, USA

  • Gevan D. Behnke
  • Mark B. DavidEmail author
  • Thomas B. Voigt


Understanding the effects of nitrogen (N) fertilization on Miscanthus × giganteus greenhouse gas emissions, nitrate leaching, and biomass production is an important consideration when using this grass as a biomass feedstock. The objective of this study was to determine the effect of three N fertilization rates (0, 60, and 120 kg N ha−1 using urea as the N source) on nitrous oxide (N2O) and carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, nitrogen leaching, and the biomass yields and N content of M. × giganteus planted in July 2008, and evaluated from 2009 through early 2011 in Urbana, Illinois, USA. While there was no biomass yield response to N fertilization rates in 2009 and 2010, the amount of N in the harvested biomass in 2010 was significantly greater at the 60 and 120 kg N ha−1 N rates. There was no significant CO2 emission response to N rates in 2009 or 2010. Similarly, N fertilization did not increase cumulative N2O emissions in 2009, but cumulative N2O emissions did increase in 2010 with N fertilization. During 2009, nitrate (NO 3 ) leaching at the 50-cm soil depth was not related to fertilization rate, but there was a significant increase in NO 3 leaching between the 0 and 120 kg N ha−1 treatments in 2010 (8.9 and 28.9 kg NO3–N ha−1 year−1, respectively). Overall, N fertilization of M. × giganteus led to N2O releases, increased fluxes of inorganic N (primarily NO 3 ) through the soil profile; and increased harvested N without a significant increase in biomass production.


Miscanthus Nitrogen fertilizer Nitrous oxide Carbon dioxide Nitrate 



Funding was provided by Department of Energy-funded Sun Grant Herbaceous Feedstock Partnership and the Energy Biosciences Institute. We thank Corey A. Mitchell for analyzing the inorganic N resin lysimeter data and Robert G. Darmody for collecting baseline soil samples and conducting texture analysis.


  1. 1.
    Solomon S, Qin D, Manning M, Chen Z, Marquis M, Avery KB et al. (eds) (2007) Contribution of working group I to the fourth assessment report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, (2007) Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK <http://www.ipccch/publications_and_data/ar4/wg1/en/contentshtml>
  2. 2.
    Ravishankara AR, Daniel JS, Portman RW (2009) Nitrous oxide (N2O): the dominant ozone-depleting substance emitted in the 21st Century. Science 326:123–125PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. 3.
    Synder CS, Bruulsema TW, Jensen TL, Fixen PE (2009) Review of greenhouse gas emissions from crop production systems and fertilizer management effects. Agric Ecosys Environ 133:247–266CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. 4.
    David MB, Gentry LE, Kovacic DA, Smith KM (1997) Nitrogen balance in and export from an agricultural watershed. J Environ Qual 26:1038–1048CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. 5.
    Gentry LE, David MB, Below FE, Royer TV, McIsaac GF (2009) Nitrogen mass balance of a tile-drained agricultural watershed in east-central Illinois. J Environ Qual 38:1841–1847PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. 6.
    Christian DG, Riche AB (1998) Nitrate leaching losses under Miscanthus grass planted on a silty clay loam. Soil Use Manag 14:131–135CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. 7.
    Gentry LE, David MB, Smith KM, Kovacic DA (1998) Nitrogen cycling and tile drainage nitrate loss in a corn/soybean watershed. Ag Ecosys Environ 68:85–97CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. 8.
    Borah DK, Demissie M, Keefer LL (2002) AGNPS-based assessment of the impact of BMPs on nitrate-nitrogen discharging into an Illinois water supply lake. Water Int 27:255–265CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. 9.
    USEPA (2008) Hypoxia in the northern Gulf of Mexico: An update by the EPA Science Advisory Board. EPA-SAB-08-004. USEPA, Washington, DCGoogle Scholar
  10. 10.
    McIsaac GF, David MB, Mitchell CA (2010) Miscanthus and switchgrass in Central Illinois: impacts on hydrology and inorganic nitrogen leaching. J Environ Qual 39:1790–1799PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. 11.
    Crutzen PJ, Mosier AR, Smith KA, Winiwarter W (2008) N2O release from agro-biofuel production negates global warming reduction by replacing fossil fuels. Atmos Chem Physics 8:389–395CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. 12.
    Lewandowski I, Kicherer A, Vonier P (1995) CO2-Balance for the cultivation and combustion of Miscanthus. Biomass Bioenerg 8:81–90CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. 13.
    Jørgensen U, Muhs H-J (2001) Miscanthus breeding and improvement. In: Jones MB, Walsh M (eds) Miscanthus for energy and fiber. James and James Science Publishers, LondonGoogle Scholar
  14. 14.
    Greef JM, Deuter M, Jung C, Schindelmaier J (1997) Genetic diversity of European Miscanthus species revealed by AFLP fingerprinting. Genetic Resour Crop Evolution 44:185–195CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. 15.
    Beale CV, Bint DA, Long SP (1996) Leaf photosynthesis in the C4-grass Miscanthus × giganteus, growing in the cool temperate climate of southern England. J Exp Bot 47:267–273CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. 16.
    Heaton EA, Dohleman FG, Miguez AF, Juvik JA, Lozovaya V, Widholm J et al (2010) Miscanthus: a promising biomass crop. Adv Bot Res 56:75–137CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. 17.
    Christian DG, Riche AB, Yates NE (2008) Growth, yield and mineral content of Miscanthus × giganteus grown as a biofuel for 14 successive harvests. Ind Crop Prod 28:320–327CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. 18.
    Miguez FE, Villamil MB, Long SP, Bollero GA (2008) Meta-analysis of the effects of management factors on Miscanthus × giganteus growth and biomass production. Agric Forest Meteorol 148:1280–1292CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. 19.
    Heaton EA, Dohleman FG, Long SP (2008) Meeting US biofuel goals with less land: the potential of Miscanthus. Global Change Biol 14:2000–2014CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. 20.
    Lewandowski I, Clifton-Brown JC, Scurlock JMO, Huisman W (2000) Miscanthus: European experience with a novel energy crop. Biomass Bioenergy 19:209–227CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. 21.
    Lewandowski I, Kicherer A (1997) Combustion quality of biomass: practical relevance and experiments to modify the biomass quality of Miscanthus × giganteus. Europ J Agron 6:163–177CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. 22.
    Heaton EA, Dohleman FG, Long SP (2009) Seasonal nitrogen dynamics of Miscanthus × giganteus and Panicum virgatum. Global Change Biol Bioenerg 1:297–307CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. 23.
    Jørgensen U (1997) Genotypic variation in dry matter accumulation and content of N, K, and Cl in Miscanthus in Denmark. Biomass Bioenergy 12:155–169CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. 24.
    Hughes JK, Lloyd AJ, Huntingford C, Finch JW, Harding RJ (2010) The impact of extensive planting of Miscanthus as an energy crop on future CO2 atmospheric concentrations. Global Change Biol Bioenerg 2:79–88CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. 25.
    Jørgensen NR, Jørgensen B, Neilsen N, Maag M, Lind A (1997) N2O emission from energy crop fields of Miscanthus “giganteus” and winter rye. Atmos Environ 31:2899–2904CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. 26.
    Maughan, M. G. Bollero, D.K. Lee, R. Darmody, S. Bonos, L. Cortese, J. Murphy, R. Gaussoin, M. Sousek, D. Williams, L. Williams, F. Miguez, and T. Voigt. 2011. Miscanthus × giganteus productivity: The effects of management in different environments. Global Change Biol Bioenerg (
  27. 27.
    Baker J, Doyle G, McCarty G, Mosier A, Parkin T, Reicosky D, Smith J, Venterea R (2003) GRACEnet: chamber-based trace gas flux measurement protocol. Trace Gas Protocol Development CommitteeGoogle Scholar
  28. 28.
    Brookside Laboratories, Inc (2000) Soil Methodologies: (for standard packages). <http://www.blinccom/worksheet_pdf/SoilMethodologiespdf>
  29. 29.
    American Society for Testing and Materials (2000) Standard test method for particle-size analysis of soils D 422–63 (1998). 2000 Annual book of ASTM standards 0408:10–17 ASTM, Philadelphia, PAGoogle Scholar
  30. 30.
    Susfalk RB, Johnson DW (2002) Ion exchange resin based soil solution lysimeters and snowmelt solution collectors. Commun Soil Sci Plant Anal 33:1261–1275CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. 31.
    Langlois JL, Johnson DW, Mehuys GR (2003) Adsorption and recovery of dissolved organic phosphorus and nitrogen by mixed-bed ion-exchange resin. Soil Sci Soc Am J 67:889–894CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. 32.
    McCoy MW, Gillooly JF (2008) Predicting natural mortality rates of plants and animals. Ecol Letters 11:710–716CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. 33.
    Allen AP, Gillooly JF, Brown JH (2005) Linking the global carbon cycle to individual metabolism. Func Ecol 19:202–213CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. 34.
    Davidson EA, Janssens IA (2006) Temperature sensitivity of soil carbon decomposition and feedbacks to climate change. Nature 440:165–173PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. 35.
    Clifton-Brown JC, Lewandowski I (2000) Water-use efficiency and biomass partitioning of three different Miscanthus genotypes with limited and unlimited water supply. Ann Bot 86:191–200CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. 36.
    Heaton EA, Flavell RB, Mascia PN, Thomas SR, Dohleman FG, Long SP (2008) Herbaceous energy crop development: recent progress and future prospects. Current Opinion Biotechnol 19:202–209CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. 37.
    Khale P, Beuch S, Boelcke B, Leinweber P, Schulten H-R (2001) Cropping of Miscanthus in Central Europe: production and influence on nutrients and soil organic matter. Europ J Agron 15:171–184CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. 38.
    Cadoux S, Riche AB, Yates NE, Machet J-M (2011) Nutrient requirements of Miscanthus × giganteus: conclusions from a review of published studies. Biomass Bioenerg. doi: 10.1016/j.biombioe.2011.01.015
  39. 39.
    De Wever H, Swerts M, Mussen S, Merckx R, Vlassak K (2000) Impact of organic amendments on N2O production through denitrification in soil. In: van Ham J, Baede APM, Meyer LA, Ybema R (eds) Non-CO2 Greenhouse Gases: Scientific Understanding. Control and Implementation Kluwer Academic Publishers, Dordrecht, pp 173–178Google Scholar
  40. 40.
    Hoben JP, Gehl RJ, Millar N, Graces PR, Robertson GP (2011) Nonlinear nitrous oxide (N2O) response to nitrogen fertilizer in on-farm corn crops of the US Midwest. Global Change Biol 17:1140–1152CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. 41.
    Hellebrand HJ, Kern J, Scholz V (2003) Long-term studies on greenhouse gas fluxes during cultivation of energy crops on sand soils. Atmos Environ 37:1635–1644CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. 42.
    Millar N, Robertson GP, Grace PR, Gehl RJ, Hoben JP (2010) Nitrogen fertilizer management for nitrous oxide (N2O) mitigation in intensive corn (Maize) production: an emission reduction protocol for US Midwest agriculture. Mitigation Adaption Strategies for Global Change 15:185–204CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. 43.
    Grant RF, Pattey E, Goddard TW, Kryzanowski LM, Puurveen H (2006) Modeling the effects of fertilizer application rate on nitrous oxide emissions. Soil Sci Soc Am J 70:235–248CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. 44.
    Engel R, Liang DL, Wallander R, Bembenek A (2010) Influence of urea fertilizer placement on nitrous oxide production from a silt loam soil. J Environ Qual 39:115–125PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. 45.
    Smith KA, Cohen F (2004) Impacts of land management on fluxes of trace greenhouse gases. Soil Use Manag 20:255–263CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. 46.
    Recous S, Machet JM (1999) Short-term immobilization and crop uptake of fertilizer nitrogen applied to winter wheat: effect of date of application in spring. Plant Soil 206:137–149CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. 47.
    Smith KA, Taggart IP, Tsuruta H (1997) Emissions of N2O and NO associated with nitrogen fertilization in intensive agriculture, and the potential for mitigation. Soil Use Manag 13:296–304CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. 48.
    Parkin TB, Kaspar TC (2006) Nitrous oxide emission from corn–soybean systems in the Midwest. J Environ Qual 35:1496–1506PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. 49.
    Baggs EM, Stevenson M, Pihlatie M, Regar A, Cook H, Cadisch G (2003) Nitrous oxide emissions following application of residues and fertilizer under zero and conventional tillage. Plant Soil 254:361–370CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. 50.
    Bouwman AF, Fung I, Matthews E, John J (1993) Global analysis of the potential for N2O production in natural soils. Global Biogeochem Cycles 7:557–597CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. 51.
    Phillips RL, Tanaka DL, Archer DW, Hanson JD (2009) Fertilizer application timing influences greenhouse gas fluxes over a growing season. J Environ Qual 38:1569–1579PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. 52.
    IPCC (2006) Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Guidelines for National Greenhouse Gas Inventories. Volume 4: Agriculture, Forestry and Other Land Use. Chapter 11: N2O Emissions from Managed Soils, and CO2 Emissions from Lime and Urea Application. <>
  53. 53.
    Drury CF, Reynolds WD, Tan CS, Welacky TW, Calder W, McLaughlin NB (2006) Emissions of nitrous oxide and carbon dioxide: influence of tillage type and nitrogen placement depth. Soil Sci Soc Am J 70:570–581CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. 54.
    Mielnick PC, Dugas WA (2000) Soil CO2 flux in a tallgrass prairie. Soil Biol Biochem 32:221–228CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. 55.
    Knapp AK, Conard SL, Blair JM (1998) Determinants of soil CO2 flux from a sub-humid grassland: effect of fire and fire history. Ecol App 8:760–770Google Scholar
  56. 56.
    Parkin TB, Kaspar TC (2003) Temperature controls on diurnal carbon dioxide flux: implications for estimating soil carbon loss. Soil Sci Soc Am J 67:1763–1772CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. 57.
    Raich JW, Potter CS (1995) Global patterns of carbon dioxide emissions from soils. Global Biogeochem Cycles 9:23–36CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. 58.
    McIsaac GF, Hu X (2004) Net N input and riverine N export from Illinois agricultural watersheds with and without extensive tile drainage. Biogeochem 70:251–271CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. 59.
    Mitchell JK, McIsaac GF, Walker SE, Hirschi MC (2000) Nitrate in river and subsurface drainage flows from an East Central Illinois watershed. Trans ASAE 43:337–342Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Gevan D. Behnke
    • 1
  • Mark B. David
    • 1
    Email author
  • Thomas B. Voigt
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Natural Resources and Environmental SciencesUniversity of Illinois at Urbana-ChampaignUrbanaUSA
  2. 2.Department of Crop SciencesUniversity of Illinois at Urbana-ChampaignUrbanaUSA

Personalised recommendations