Switchgrass is a promising, high-yielding crop for California biofuel
Gabriel M. Pedroso, UC Davis
Christopher De Ben, UC Davis
Robert B. Hutmacher, UC Davis
Steve Orloff, UC Cooperative Extension
Dan Putnam, UC Davis
Johan Six, UC Davis
Chris van Kessel, UC Davis
Steven D. Wright, UC Cooperative Extension
Bruce A. Linquist, UC Davis
Originally published online only.
California Agriculture 65(3):168-173. DOI: 10.3733/ca.E.v065n03p168.
Ethanol use in California is expected to rise to 1.62 billion gallons per year in 2012, more than 90% of which will be trucked or shipped into the state. Switchgrass, a nonnative grass common in other states, has been identified as a possible high-yielding biomass crop for the production of cellulosic ethanol. The productivity of the two main ecotypes of switchgrass, lowland and upland, was evaluated under irrigated conditions across four diverse California ecozones — from Tulelake in the cool north to warm Imperial Valley in the south. In the first full year of production, the lowland varieties yielded up to 17 tons per acre of biomass, roughly double the biomass yields of California rice or maize. The yield response to nitrogen fertilization was statistically insignificant in the first year of production, except for in the Central Valley plots that were harvested twice a year. The biomass yields in our study indicate that switchgrass is a promising biofuel crop for California.
G.M. Pedroso is Ph.D. Student, Department of Plant Sciences, UC Davis. C. De Ben is Research Associate, Department of Plant Sciences, UC Davis. R.B. Hutmacher is Director, West Side Research and Extension Center, UC Davis. S. Orloff is Cooperative Extension Advisor, ANR North Coast and Mountain Region; D. Putnam is Extension Specialist in Crop Ecology, UC Davis. J. Six is Professor, Department of Plant Sciences, UC Davis. C. van Kessel is Professor, Department of Plant Sciences, UC Davis. S. Wright is Cooperative Extension Advisor, ANR Central Valley Region; B.A. Linquist is Professional Researcher, Department of Plant Sciences, UC Davis.
The authors thank Chevron Technology Ventures and Ceres Inc. for funding and provision of seeds. We also thank staff of the Intermountain, West Side and Desert research and extension centers, whose assistance with field and laboratory work was essential: Craig Giannini, Ed Scott, James Jackson, Fred Stewart, Don Kirby, Francisco Maciel, Maria Carolina Andrea, Filipe Saad, Jose Carlos Gava Jr., Cristiano Jorge, Leonardo Bordin, Joao Schmidt Jr. and Daniel Pereira.