Monday, November 13, 2006

Switchgrass Production on the Southern High Plains.

Joel Basinger, USDA-ARS, 3810 4th St, 3810 4th St, Lubbock, TX 79415, United States of America and Dan Upchurch, USDA-ARS, Cropping Sys Res Lab, 3810 4th St., Lubbock, TX 79415.

The problem facing growers and the general population throughout the world is two fold: diminishing water supplies and rising energy costs.  These issues are particularly pronounced in the Southern High Plains of the U.S.  The use of groundwater for production agriculture has lowered aquifer levels, decreasing production potential and profitability.  Switchgrass has been proposed as a potential bioenergy crop due to high productivity levels, low input requirements, widespread adaptability and potential to enhance soil and wildlife habitats.  Switchgrass production has been examined throughout many areas of the US, but little work has been conducted on the semi-arid Southern High Plains, where high soil temperatures, high pH, and low rainfall amounts could negatively impact seedling establishment and future biomass production. In spring 2006, switchgrass plots were established in Lubbock and Big Spring, TX to evaluate differences in varieties and climates on the Southern High Plains. Multiple commercially available switchgrass varieties were seeded into conventional and no-till seed beds.  Plots were seeded with 5 commercially varieties under a center-pivot irrigations system to ensure successful stand is establishment.  After the center-pivot is established, it will be split into dryland and irrigated crops to determine the value of supplemental irrigation on crop yield.  Traditional dryland plots (no supplemental irrigation) were also seeded.  Canopy development was monitored and biomass was harvested in the fall to determine the success of establishment and the time required to establish a productive stand.  Soil organic matter was monitored to measure changes in soil productivity.  Varieties were compared to identify an optimum variety and to suggest possible enhancements through breeding.  The preliminary results will be presented.  This evaluation will continue for five years.