Miscanthus

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Bioenergy > Feedstocks > Cellulosic feedstocks > Miscanthus



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Miscanthus (also known as elephant grass) is a genus of tall perrenial grasses native to subtropical and tropical regions of Africa and southern Asia, which has also been used as an ornamental plant in Japan. A sterile hybrid of miscanthus, Miscanthus x Giganteus is being evaluated in Europe due to its high biomass yield, low mineral content and rapid growth.[1] Miscanthus can be harvested every year by sugar cane harvester and can be grown in cool climates. [1]

Contents

History

Miscanthus has seen trials as a biofuel in Europe since the early 1980's. [2]

Sustainability

Land Degradation

The rhizomes can be broken up, collected and planted using existing agricultural equipment such as potato harvesters and planters. Irrigation in the first year and protection from frost improves the establishment rate. The crop is normally harvested from year 2 onwards, but yields continue to improve until they level off around the 5th or 6th year. [3] Fertilizer needs appear to be relatively low, depending upon local soil fertility.

Social Sustainability

Look here for information on employment, job creation, adverse effects on indigenous peoples, gender issues, etc.

Publications

News

  • Computer model optimizes biofuel operations 17 January 2012 by R&D: “Research into biofuel crops such as switchgrass and Miscanthus has focused mainly on how to grow these crops and convert them into fuels. But many steps lead from the farm to the biorefinery, and each could help or hinder the growth of this new industry.”
    • “A new computer model developed at the University of Illinois can simplify this transition, researchers say. The model can run millions of simulations, optimizing operations to bring down costs, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, or achieve other goals.”
    • The model, named BioFeed, was developed by “agricultural and biological engineering professor and department head K.C. Ting…with Energy Biosciences Institute research professor Yogendra Shastri and agricultural and biological engineering professors Alan Hansen and Luis Rodriguez.”
    • "The model took into account regional attributes such as weather, crop yield, farm size, and transport distances, Shastri said. The model can optimize more than 300,000 variables, he said, including harvest schedules, equipment selection, storage sizing, transport distances, and the logistics of moving the biomass from place to place.”
    • “BioFeed allows policymakers, growers, investors, biorefinery owners, researchers, and other interested parties to learn from simulations without having to actually build the system first, the researchers said. ‘There are so many factors to consider, so many ways to operate, so many scenarios, so many potential policy changes,’ Ting said. ‘That's why the optimization tool itself is so important.’” [4]
  • Testing the Water for Bioenergy Crops, 31 August 2011 by the U.S. News : "Energy researchers and environmental advocates are excited about the prospect of gaining more efficient large-scale biofuel production by using large grasses like miscanthus or switchgrass rather than corn."
    • "They have investigated yields, land use, economics and more, but one key factor of agriculture has been overlooked: water."
    • "Miscanthus and switchgrass have a very different above-ground foliage structure from corn—more surface area and much denser growth."
    • "This is good for maximizing the amount of biomass that an acre of land can produce, said Praveen Kumar, an environmental engineer and atmospheric scientist at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, but it also increases water use."
    • "The result of large-scale adoption would be a reduction in soil moisture and runoff, but an increase in atmospheric humidity."
    • "In the U.S. Midwest, rainfall should remain sufficient to meet water demand, according to Kumar. However, areas that rely on irrigation could find they have less water to meet higher demands, which could increase the net cost of large-scale land conversion and put pressure on already stressed water resources."[5]
  • Switch from Corn to Grass Would Raise Ethanol Output, Cut Emissions, 12 July 2011 by ScienceDaily: "Growing perennial grasses on the least productive farmland now used for corn ethanol production in the U.S. would result in higher overall corn yields, more ethanol output per acre and better groundwater quality, researchers report in a new study."
    • "The study used a computer model of plant growth and soil chemistry to compare the ecological effects of growing corn (Zea mays L.); miscanthus (Miscanthus x giganteus), a sterile hybrid grass used in bioenergy production in Western Europe; and switchgrass (Panicum virgatum L.), which is native to the U.S."
    • "The analysis found that switching 30 percent of the least productive corn acres to miscanthus offered the most ecological advantages."
    • "'If cellulosic feedstocks (such as miscanthus) were planted on cropland that is currently used for ethanol production in the U.S., we could achieve more ethanol (plus 82 percent) and grain for food (plus 4 percent), while reducing nitrogen leaching (minus 15 to 22 percent) and greenhouse gas emissions (minus 29 percent to 473 percent),' the researchers wrote in their report, published in the journal Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment."
    • "Several hurdles remain before the transition from corn to cellulosic ethanol production can occur on a commercial scale, the researchers said. Converting the sugars in corn to ethanol is easier than releasing the energy locked in plant stems and leaves."[6]
  • Grasses Have Potential as Alternate Ethanol Crop, Illinois Study Finds, 1 November 2010 by Science Daily: "Researchers at the University of Illinois have completed the first extensive geographic yield and economic analysis of potential bioenergy grass crops in the Midwestern United States."
    • "[F]ederal regulations mandate that 79 billion liters of biofuels must be produced annually from non-corn biomass by 2022. Large grasses, such as switchgrass and miscanthus, could provide biomass with the added benefits of better nitrogen fixation and carbon capture, higher ethanol volumes per acre and lower water requirements than corn."
    • "Switchgrass is large prairie grass native to the Midwest, and Miscanthus, a sterile hybrid, is already widely cultivated in Europe as a biofuel crop."
    • "The team published its results in the October issue of the journal Global Change Biology Bioenergy."
    • "The researchers found that, in general, the yield is very high for miscanthus -- up to three times higher than switchgrass in the Midwest. Even through switchgrass is native to the region, it doesn't grow well in higher latitudes like Minnesota or Wisconsin because it has poor tolerance for cold temperatures."
    • "Most notably, for the southernmost counties -- much of southern Illinois and nearly all of Missouri -- the model predicts greater production of grasses than of current corn and soy crops. This could be a key factor in farmers' decisions to cultivate biofuel crops."
    • "Unlike annual crops that provide a farmer with a crop every year, miscanthus and switchgrass require a lag of at least two years before harvesting."[7]
  • Chu appointment delights energy campaigners, 16 December 2008 by the Financial Times: "The appointment of Steven Chu as US energy secretary has been welcomed in the US and around the world by scientists and campaigners on climate change as presaging a dramatic change in the US approach to global warming."
    • "He is sceptical of traditional ethanol, saying he would 'rather drink it', but has enthusiastically backed more advanced biofuels produced from non-food crops such as miscanthus, sometimes known as elephant grass."[8]
  • Miscanthus can meet U.S. biofuels goal using less land than corn or switchgrass, 30 July 2008 press release by University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana: "In the largest field trial of its kind in the United States, researchers have determined that the giant perennial grass Miscanthus x giganteus outperforms current biofuels sources – by a lot."
    • "Using corn or switchgrass to produce enough ethanol to offset 20 percent of gasoline use – a current White House goal – would take 25 percent of current U.S. cropland out of food production, the researchers report. Getting the same amount of ethanol from Miscanthus would require only 9.3 percent of current agricultural acreage."
    • "Because Miscanthus is a perennial grass, it also accumulates much more carbon in the soil than an annual crop such as corn or soybeans"[9]
    • View the informative slideshow

Notes

  1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Miscanthus



Grasses edit
Elephant grass | Miscanthus | Switchgrass

Grasslands | Native grasses (Prairie grasses)
See also: Conservation Reserve Program | Cellulosic ethanol

Temperate feedstocks for bioenergy edit
Corn (Bioethanol) | Jojoba (biodiesel) | Prairie grasses (Bioethanol) | Rapeseed (Biodiesel) | Soy beans (Biodiesel) | Sugar beet (Bioethanol) | Sweet potato (Bioethanol) | Sweet sorghum (Bioethanol) | Switchgrass (Bioethanol) | Wheat (Bioethanol)
Bioethanol edit
Bioethanol feedstocks: Corn
Bioethanol conversion technologies:
Bioenergy feedstocks edit

Biodiesel feedstocks:
Currently in use: Animal fat | Castor beans | Coconut oil | Jatropha | Jojoba | Karanj | Palm oil | Rapeseed | Soybeans | Sunflower seed | Waste Vegetable Oil (WVO)
Currently in research and development: Algae | Halophytes (Salt-tolerant plants)


Ethanol feedstocks:
First-generation: Cassava | Corn | Milo | Nypa palm | Sorghum | Sugar beets | Sugar cane | Sugar palm |Sweet potato | Waste citrus peels | Wheat | Whey
Second-generation: For cellulosic technology - Grasses: Miscanthus, Prairie grasses, Switchgrass | Trees: Hybrid poplar, Mesquite, Willow


Charcoal feedstocks: Bamboo | Wood
Waste-to-energy (MSW)


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