Miscanthus as Biomass Fuel

Renewable energy resources are of great interest today. Miscanthus research has been conducted at the University of Illinois and in Europe and England using Miscanthus x giganteus, a natural hybrid of Miscanthus sinensis and M. sacchariflorus, as a biomass fuel or fiber source (Walsh and Jones, 2002).

Almost all of the renewable energy research work refers to this one specific type of Miscanthus, M. x giganteus, a pollen sterile natural hybrid that grows quite tall, 8-12' in Minnesota (pictured) and up to 14' in warmer climates. This form sets no viable seed. Twenty tons of dry M. x giganteus is equivalent of 12 tons of coal; and 30 tons is equivalent to 12,000 liters of oil. Biomass economic viability for M. x giganteus varies depending on yield, subsidy, length of years of production and price paid for the crop. Early analysis at the University of Illinois in central United States, estimated M. x giganteus to be profitable if grown for 12 years.

Cornell University's grass bioenergy website provides current information on several grasses. Stewart et al., 2009, and Zub and Brancourt-Hulmel 2010, have published reviews of Miscanthus including ecology, agronomy and biomass implications.

The young person shown above is five feet tall with M. x giganteus behind her. Four miscanthus plants were planted here in 1987; the photo was taken in 1991. Miscanthus oligostachyus, at left, and Pennisetum alopecuroides, front center, both had been moved in the 2002 photo, above. M. x giganteus forms a large clump, with rhizomes that increase slowly increase in diameter. This form is moderately aggressive and is not the same Miscanthus that has invaded natural plant communities.


Stewart, J. R., Y. Toma, F. G. Fernandez, A. Nishiwaki, T. Yamada, and G. Bollero. 2009.
The ecology and agronomy of Miscanthus sinensis, a species important to bioenergy crop development, in its native range in Japan: A review. GCB Bioenergy. DOI: 10.1111/j.1757-1707.2009.01010x.

Walsh, M. and M. Jones. 2002. Miscanthus: for energy and fiber. CPL Press, Berks, UK.

Zub, H. and M. Brancourt-Hulmel. 2010. Agronomic and physiological performances of different species of Miscanthus, a major energy crop. A review. Agron. Sustain. Dev. 30: 201–214. DOI: 10.1051/agro/2009034.