Monday, November 13, 2006

Switchgrass Management Affects on Feedstock Costs.

Marty Schmer, University of Nebraska - Lincoln, 3935 X St., 3935 X St., Lincoln, NE 68503, United States of America, Kenneth Vogel, University of Nebraska, USDA, Lincoln, NE 68583-0937, Robert Mitchell, University of Nebraska, USDA-ARS, Lincoln, NE 68583-0937, and Richard K. Perrin, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, 314A Filley Hall, Lincoln, NE 68583.

Switchgrass (Panicum virgatum L.) is a potential bioenergy feedstock in the United States.  Switchgrass was seeded and managed as a biomass energy crop on 10 farms in Nebraska, South Dakota, and North Dakota to evaluate economic costs of establishing and producing switchgrass at the field-scale.  The fields were evaluated for five years from 2000 to 2005.  The objective of this component of the study was to compare management practices and location affects on feedstock costs.  Fields that were harvested the establishment year had overall feedstock costs 29% less than fields with no establishment year harvest.  Field applications of a pre-emergent herbicide to control annual, grassy weeds in the establishment year had 36% less feedstock costs than fields with no herbicide treatment or only a broadleaf herbicide treatment.  Farmer cooperators that had previous experience with switchgrass had 34% lower feedstock costs than farmer cooperators with no experience in switchgrass production.  Fields east of -98.5° Longitude had 31% less feedstock costs than fields west of -98.5° Longitude due to better establishment conditions.  Management practices that would further reduce feedstock costs include planting switchgrass after crops that minimized tillage, improving seed quality, applying proper herbicides, basing fertilizer rates on production and soil tests, planting bioenergy specific cultivars, and harvesting on proper dates.   Improved production practices and farmer education on switchgrass management will be critical to economic production of switchgrass for bioenergy.