Switchgrass is a native warm season (NWS) perennial grass that is often grown as a forage crop, natural wildlife habitat, or, increasingly, as a bioenergy crop. Switchgrass can grow more than 10 feet tall, and well-managed stands may last for decades. Once switchgrass is established, its bunch-type growth habit makes it very competitive with weeds; however, it is not considered invasive.
SWITCHGRASS VARIETIES -- Charles P. West, UA professor of crop, soil and environmental sciences, shows a switchgrass plant in a variety test plots at the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture’s Pine Tree Research Station near Colt.
While scientists have conducted numerous studies on production of biomass from biofuel crops, such as switchgrass, no one has yet compiled this information to evaluate the response of biomass yield to soils, climate, and crop management across the United States. A team of researchers from Oak Ridge National Laboratory and Dartmouth College published just such a study in the July-August 2010 Agronomy Journal, published by the American Society of Agronomy.
ARS geneticist Ken Vogel has helped develop a way to grade the ethanol potential of perennial grasses at the biorefinery's loading dock at a cost of only about $5 a sample rather than the $300 to $2,000 per sample that conventional analytical methods cost.