• Feedstocks Analysed at Celignis
    Reed Canary Grass

Background on Reed Canary Grass

Reed canary grass (RCG) is a perennial C3 grass that is: indigenous to northern Europe; adapted to short vegetation periods and low temperatures; can be established by seed; and is safe from overwintering. It can reach a canopy height of 1.5 to 3 metres and, like Miscanthus, has a vigorous rhizome system. It has been used as a forage crop, mainly in North America.

The crop can be harvested in the late summer or there can be a delayed harvest in the spring. The relatively dry spring crop can easily be cut with normal equipment for hay harvesting. As with the harvest of all grasses, the cutting height should be as low as possible without causing soil and stone contamination. Pahkala (2001) showed that where RCG was cut at a height of 10cm, the resulting yield was 26%-29% lower than that from a cutting height of 5 cm.

There has been much research in Scandinavia on the use of reed canary grass for energy and fibre purposes. The crop is particularly suited for that region due to its toleration of cold climates and its ability to be grown on cut-away peat land.

Breeding programs that attempted to develop varieties for biofuel production were initiated in the early 1990s in Sweden and Finland.

Reed canary grass yields are often dependant on the soil; yields are much higher on soils with less than 15% of clay than on clay soils. The highest yields in a series of trials in Sweden were obtained on humus-rich soils; on average, over 8 harvest years, the yield was 9 tonnes of dry matter per hectare when harvested in autumn, and 7.5 tonnes of dry matter per hectare at spring harvest (Landstrom, 1999). As with Miscanthus, an autumn harvest yields more crop, with a greater proportion of leaves, but at a higher moisture content.

Fertilisation increases yields, but only up to a level of approximately 100 kg N/ha. On mineral soils more nitrogen fertilizer is likely to be required than for Miscanthus or switchgrass.

Christian and Riche (2000) grew reed canary grass over six years in Rothamstead, England. They found that the highest yield was obtained in the second year and that yields decreased as the crop matured further. It was uncertain as to whether these yield reductions were due to a loss of vitality, lodging problems, or damage caused by larvae.

An EU-funded study evaluated fifteen genotypes, including the commercial variety Palaton, with all populations harvested with a forage plot harvester in late summer/autumn and early spring (delayed harvest). The results were associated with the region of production, with the Irish plot and three from the UK labelled as Western Plots; associated with warm and wet climates. It was found that, for the highest yielding varieties, this region had greater production than either the northern or southern regions. The highest yielding western variety had a mean yield of 12.5 dry tonnes per hectare. Delaying the harvest resulted in yields dropping by between 2% and 37%, depending on the genotype. There was significant damage to RCG resulting from the larvae of the grass moth, Opomea, in the trials at Rothamstead, England. The stem to leaf proportion (by mass) was on average 75% stem in the spring harvest and 65% stem in autumn.

Analysis of Reed Canary Grass at Celignis

Celignis Analytical can determine the following properties of Reed Canary Grass samples:

Lignocellulosic Properties of Reed Canary Grass

Cellulose Content of Reed Canary Grass

Reed canary grass tends to have a similar composition to Miscanthus and switchgrass, with cellulose being the main mass constituent. The cellulose content will be dependent on the productivity of the crop; shorter plants tend to have lower cellulose contents than taller, more productive, plants

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Hemicellulose Content of Reed Canary Grass

As with Miscanthus and switchgrass, arabinoxylan is the main hemicellulose in switchgrass with xylose the most abundant hemicellulosic sugar.

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Lignin Content of Reed Canary Grass

The lignin content of reed canary grass will depend on what particular clonal variety is being grown as well as on the productivity of the crop. Smaller plants tend to have a greater leaf:stem mass ratio than taller plants and this means that the lignin and cellulose contents are typically lower whilst the extractives and ash contents are higher.

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Starch Content of Reed Canary Grass

The starch content of reed canary grass varies between the different anatomical components of the plant. Typically it is highest in the leaves, where photosynthesis takes place, and lower in the stems. The starch content can also vary according to the maturity of the plant.

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Uronic Acid Content of Reed Canary Grass

Uronic acids are present in the hemicelluloses in reed canary grass and are typically more abundant in the early-stages of growth. Furthermore, the concentrations of uronic acids tends to be greatest in the nodes, lower in the internodes, and at intermediate levels in the leaves.

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Enzymatic Hydrolysis of Reed Canary Grass

We can undertake tests involving the enzymatic hydrolysis of Reed Canary Grass. In these experiments we can either use a commercial enzyme mix or you can supply your own enzymes. We also offer analysis packages that compare the enzymatic hydrolysis of a pre-treated sample with that of the native original material.

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Bioenergy Properties of Reed Canary Grass

Ash Content of Reed Canary Grass

The ash content of reed canary grass will vary according to the clonal variety and plant productivity.

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Heating (Calorific) Value of Reed Canary Grass

Reed canary grass can have an attractive heating value, however the effective heating value will depend on the moisture content of the crop.

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Ash Melting Behaviour of Reed Canary Grass

Ash melting, also known as ash fusion and ash softening, can lead to slagging, fouling and corrosion in boilers which may reduce conversion efficiency. We can determine the ash melting behaviour of Reed Canary Grass using our Carbolite CAF G5 BIO ash melting furnace. It can record the following temperatures:

Ash Shrinkage Starting Temperature (SST) - This occurs when the area of the test piece of Reed Canary Grass ash falls below 95% of the original test piece area.

Ash Deformation Temperature (DT) - The temperature at which the first signs of rounding of the edges of the test piece occurs due to melting.

Ash Hemisphere Temperature (HT) - When the test piece of Reed Canary Grass ash forms a hemisphere (i.e. the height becomes equal to half the base diameter).

Ash Flow Temperature (FT) - The temperature at which the Reed Canary Grass ash is spread out over the supporting tile in a layer, the height of which is half of the test piece at the hemisphere temperature.

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Major and Minor Elements in Reed Canary Grass

Examples of major elements that may be present in Reed Canary Grass include potassium and sodium which are present in biomass ash in the forms of oxides. These can lead to fouling, ash deposition in the convective section of the boiler. Alkali chlorides can also lead to slagging, the fusion and sintering of ash particles which can lead to deposits on boiler tubes and walls.

We can also determine the levels of 13 different minor elements (such as arsenic, copper, and zinc) that may be present in Reed Canary Grass.

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Analysis of Reed Canary Grass for Anaerobic Digestion

Biomethane potential (BMP) of Reed Canary Grass

At Celignis we can provide you with crucial data on feedstock suitability for AD as well as on the composition of process residues. For example, we can determine the biomethane potential (BMP) of Reed Canary Grass. The BMP can be considered to be the experimental theoretical maximum amount of methane produced from a feedstock. We moniotor the volume of biogas produced allowing for a cumulative plot over time, accessed via the Celignis Database. Our BMP packages also involve routine analysis of biogas composition (biomethane, carbon dioxide, hydrogen sulphide, ammonia, oxygen). We also provide detailed analysis of the digestate, the residue that remains after a sample has been digested. Our expertise in lignocellulosic analysis can allow for detailed insight regarding the fate of the different biogenic polymers during digestion.

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Physical Properties of Reed Canary Grass

Bulk Density of Reed Canary Grass

At Celignis we can determine the bulk density of biomass samples, including Reed Canary Grass, according to ISO standard 17828 (2015). This method requires the biomass to be in an appropriate form (chips or powder) for density determination.

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Particle Size of Reed Canary Grass

Our lab is equipped with a Retsch AS 400 sieve shaker. It can accommodate sieves of up to 40 cm diameter, corresponding to a surface area of 1256 square centimetres. This allows us to determine the particle size distribution of a range of samples, including Reed Canary Grass, by following European Standard methods EN 15149- 1:2010 and EN 15149-2:2010.

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Publications on Reed Canary Grass By The Celignis Team

Hayes, D. J. M. (2011) Analysis of Lignocellulosic Feedstocks for Biorefineries with a Focus on The Development of Near Infrared Spectroscopy as a Primary Analytical Tool, PhD Thesis832 pages (over 2 volumes)


The processing of lignocellulosic materials in modern biorefineries will allow for the production of transport fuels and platform chemicals that could replace petroleum-derived products. However, there is a critical lack of relevant detailed compositional information regarding feedstocks relevant to Ireland and Irish conditions. This research has involved the collection, preparation, and the analysis, with a high level of precision and accuracy, of a large number of biomass samples from the waste and agricultural sectors. Not all of the waste materials analysed are considered suitable for biorefining; for example the total sugar contents of spent mushroom composts are too low. However, the waste paper/cardboard that is currently exported from Ireland has a chemical composition that could result in high biorefinery yields and so could make a significant contribution to Irelandís biofuel demands.

Miscanthus was focussed on as a major agricultural feedstock. A large number of plants have been sampled over the course of the harvest window (October to April) from several sites. These have been separated into their anatomical fractions and analysed. This has allowed observations to be made regarding the compositional trends observed within plants, between plants, and between harvest dates. Projections are made regarding the extents to which potential chemical yields may vary. For the DIBANET hydrolysis process that is being developed at the University of Limerick, per hectare yields of levulinic acid from Miscanthus could be 20% greater when harvested early compared with a late harvest.

The wet-chemical analysis of biomass is time-consuming. Near infrared spectroscopy (NIRS) has been developed as a rapid primary analytical tool with separate quantitative models developed for the important constituents of Miscanthus, peat, and (Australian) sugarcane bagasse. The work has demonstrated that accurate models are possible, not only for dry homogenous samples, but also for wet heterogeneous samples. For glucose (cellulose) the root mean square error of prediction (RMSEP) for wet samples is 1.24% and the R2 for the validation set ( ) is 0.931. High accuracies are even possible for minor analytes; e.g. for the rhamnose content of wet Miscanthus samples the RMSEP is 0.03% and the is 0.845. Accurate models have also been developed for pre-treated Miscanthus samples and are discussed. In addition, qualitative models have been developed. These allow for samples to be discriminated for on the basis of plant fraction, plant variety (giganteus/non-giganteus), harvest-period (early/late), and stand-age (one-year/older).

Quantitative NIRS models have also been developed for peat, although the heterogeneity of this feedstock means that the accuracies tend to be lower than for Miscanthus. The development of models for sugarcane bagasse has been hindered, in some cases, by the limited chemical variability between the samples in the calibration set. Good models are possible for the glucose and total sugars content, but the accuracy of other models is poorer. NIRS spectra of Brazilian bagasse samples have been projected onto these models, and onto those developed for Miscanthus, and the Miscanthus models appear to provide a better fit than the Australian bagasse models.

Examples of Other Feedstocks Analysed at Celignis