178-5 Under Cover: Secrets to Using Companion Crops in Establishment of M. x Giganteus.

See more from this Division: A10 Bioenergy and Agroindustrial Systems
See more from this Session: Improving Bioenergy Production Systems through Management
Tuesday, November 2, 2010: 11:15 AM
Long Beach Convention Center, Room 201B, Second Floor
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Emily Heaton1, Jeremy Singer2, Richard Cruse1 and Doug Davenport3, (1)Iowa State University, Ames, IA
(2)USDA-ARS National Laboratory for Agriculture and the Environment, Ames, IA
(3)USDA-NRCS, Bedford, IA
Miscanthus x giganteus is of interest for bioenergy because of its high biomass yields and low input requirements. The deep-rooted perennial grass has garnered attention for potential to build soil organic matter and sequester atmospheric carbon, particularly on marginal lands. There is a risk however, that M. x giganteus establishment can degrade sensitive or highly erodible land because current planting practice leaves much of the soil surface exposed for 1-2 years. One way to mitigate this risk might be to plant M. x giganteus with a companion crop that can provide soil cover and reduce erosion during the establishment period. We are evaluating the potential of nine companion crops to 1) facilitate growth and overwinter survival of M. x giganteus and 2) compete for water and light resources. Early results suggest that companion crops can reduce M. x giganteus  biomass yield by 80%% in the first year, but do not negatively impact crop survival during the critical first winter. Growth in the second year indicates good opportunity to select companion crops for M. x giganteus that improve ecosystem service with minimal impact on biomass yield.