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Native to Asia, various types of miscanthus grass have been widely planted in the U.S. and Europe. However, most plants were simply selected from wild populations, and not necessarily optimized as a crop or adapted to geographies where bioenergy facilities will be located.
The greatest challenge to miscanthus production in the U.S. is the cost to establish fields. Because miscanthus is planted from cuttings or rhizomes, as opposed to seeds, it can cost thousands of dollars an acre just to establish a field — about 5 to 10 times more than a seeded perennial like switchgrass. Despite its high yields, in most situations the value of greater productivity does not overcome high up-front costs at this time.
To enable greater use of this promising crop, Ceres is developing diverse varieties that can be sown more economically by seed. Working with experts at the Institute of Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences (IBERS) in the U. K., our goal is to expand the scale and range where farmers can grow miscanthus. This work includes developing seeded varieties, increasing genetic diversity and developing plants suited to harsh conditions.
Miscanthus produces high yields of biomass with relatively few inputs. As a perennial, fields of miscanthus can remain productive for many years. Canes of miscanthus also stand well in the field during winter months. This facilitates storage and makes spring harvest possible for biomass users establishing year-round supply chains.