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.

References:

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.