Switchgrass has been researched as a renewable bioenergy crop since the mid-1980s, because it is a native perennial warm season grass with the ability to produce moderate to high yields on marginal farmlands. It is now being considered for use in several bioenergy conversion processes, including cellulosic ethanol production, biogas, and direct combustion for thermal energy applications. The main agronomic advantages of switchgrass as a bioenergy crop are its stand longevity, drought and flooding tolerance, relatively low herbicide and fertilizer input requirements, ease of management, hardiness in poor soil and climate conditions, and widespread adaptability in temperate climates. In some warm humid southern zones, such as Alabama, it has the ability to produce up to 10 oven-dry tons per acre.
Switchgrass will likely be the feedstock of choice for the Tennessee Biomass Initiative. While energy crops like miscanthus and biomass sorghum offer impressive yields and real advantages in certain situations, switchgrass has its place.