Ceres, Inc, an energy crop company, recently published two new crop management guides that offer recommendations on the establishment, management and harvest of switchgrass and high-biomass sorghum.
Energy grasses that provide high yields of biomass and can be converted into low-carbon fuels or co-fired for electricity generation are still rather new for many growers. Additionally, production and harvest techniques regularly evolve as the bioenergy industry becomes more established.
Ceres sales director Frank Hardimon says the recommendations in the guides are based on results from the company’s extensive trialing network as well as its involvement in bioenergy projects. “Given our research with both producers and their customers, we often play a project development role in bringing parties together. This is where we learn the most — out in the field under real-world conditions,” he said.
Hardimon has found that once growers get over the initial learning curve, energy grasses more than live up to their reputation as low maintenance crops. “We’re finding that, generally speaking, growers are able to use existing methods and equipment to plant and harvest energy grasses, but there are important differences and some new best practices to consider.”
The company’s second edition switchgrass management guide demonstrates how crop practices and recommendations have been changing with the times. For example, traditionally it was determined that switchgrass should be planted at shallow depths. However, Ceres reports that current studies across multiple locations and seasons suggest that stand establishment and seedling vigor can be improved by planting seeds at deeper depths depending on soil type and geography.
New high-biomass sorghum hybrids have also acquired considerable interest among bioenergy producers since they can produce very high yields in as few as 90 to 100 days. Like other energy crops, sorghum uses water and other inputs very efficiently. Here again, despite a long history of production new practices are needed.
Ceres product manager Walter Nelson says that in North America high-biomass sorghums generally flower very late in the season, if at all, and thus keep growing until a killing frost. “Crop management practices and harvest times, therefore, are influenced heavily by delivery requirements and end-user preferences, such as for moisture content and overall biomass quality,” Nelson said.
Published under the company’s Blade trade name, the free guides titled Planting and Managing Switchgrass as a Dedicated Energy Crop, 2nd Edition and Managing High-Biomass Sorghum as a Dedicated Energy Crop can be downloaded at www.BladeEnergy.com. Print copies can be requested by emailing info@BladeEnergy.com.