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A principle attribute of perennial grasses for biomass energy is the potential for high yields on marginal lands. Objectives of this study were to compare biomass and seed production of intermediate wheatgrass (Thinopyrum intermedium [Host] Barkworth and D.R. Dewey), big bluestem (Andropogon gerardii Vitman), and switchgrass (Panicum virgatum L.) as affected by harvest timing and manure application on two topographic positions (footslope and backslope). Footslope is the hillslope position that forms the inclined surface at the base of a slope and backslope forms the steepest, middle position of the hillslope. Grasses were harvested for biomass at anthesis (summer), after a killing frost (autumn), or the following spring after overwintering in the field. Seed was harvested at maturity during 2003 and 2004. Two rates of beef cattle (Bos taurus L.) manure (target rates of 0 and 150 kg total‐N ha−1) were surface applied annually. Maximum annual biomass yield ranged from 4.4 to 5.2, 2.7 to 4.2, and 3.7 to 5.6 Mg ha−1 for intermediate wheatgrass, big bluestem, and switchgrass, respectively. Biomass yields were not different between fall and spring harvest treatments. Biomass yields of big bluestem and switchgrass at the backslope position were 86% and 96% of biomass yields at the footslope position with normal precipitation, respectively. Manure application increased biomass yield approximately 30% during the second year on both topographic positions. The highest seed yield was obtained from intermediate wheatgrass, followed by switchgrass and big bluestem. Utilizing these management practices in our environment, it appears that switchgrass and big bluestem could be allowed to overwinter in the field without suffering appreciable loss of biomass.

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Global Change Biology Bioenergy





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Wiley Online


© 2009 Blackwell Publishing Ltd

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Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.