In Wisconsin, a six-year Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center (GLBRC) study on the viability of different bioenergy feedstocks recently demonstrated that perennial cropping systems such as switchgrass, giant miscanthus, poplar, native grasses, and prairie can yield as much biomass as corn stover.
The study is significant for beginning to address one of the biofuel industry’s biggest questions: can environmentally beneficial crops produce enough biomass to make their conversion to ethanol efficient and economical?
Corn, when grain is included, proved to be most productive over the first six-year period of the study at the Wisconsin site, but giant miscanthus, switchgrass, poplar, and native grasses were not far behind. While the soil is not as fertile at the MSU site, there, miscanthus actually produced the same amount of biomass as corn (grain included) in the experiment, with poplar and switchgrass within range.
The study is expected to continue for the foreseeable future.