Switchgrass (Panicum virgatum L.) is an American C4 grass that is established from seeds, an advantage over Miscanthus which has to be propagated. The temperature for germination varies with clonal variety; from 5.5 to 10.9 degrees Celsius. The crop should be sown in May or June, flowering will probably occur in the late summer, and senescence in the autumn.
Switchgrass does well on a wide variety of soil types. It is drought tolerant and grows well on shallow rocky soils. It is also tolerant to wet areas. It can grow on sand to clay loam soils and tolerates soils with pH values ranging from 4.9 to 7.6.
There are various reports that switchgrass shows no response to N fertilizer or only to the first 50 kg. In fertile sites switchgrass may require little or no fertilisation, and, generally, will require less fertilisation than Miscanthus. Weeds, however, can be a major problem in establishment, and it is important that these are controlled in the first year, and totally removed before establishment. Insects can also decrease the effectiveness of establishment and result in a longer period needed before ceiling yields are obtained. There are also diseases that may decrease yields, for example the Panicum mosaic virus, or various leaf rusts (Puccinia spp.).
As with reed canary grass, conventional hay harvesting equipment can be used to harvest switchgrass. The crop usually needs to be harvested after senescence to prevent lodging losses, although such losses tend to be less than with reed canary grass. The effects of a delayed harvest on yields and chemical composition are likely to be less than those for Miscanthus, given that Switchgrass does not shed its leaves to the extent that Miscanthus x giganteus does.
While the crop can be harvested twice a year, a single harvest tends to give higher yields in temperate climates and will be more economic. Switchgrass yields generally increase yearly for the first three years before levelling-off in most varieties.
Analysis of Switchgrass at Celignis
Celignis Analytical can determine the following properties of Switchgrass samples:
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