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.