The influence of propagation method and stand age on Miscanthus x giganteus performance in Iowa, USA

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Boersma, Nicholas
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Emily A. Heaton
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The Department of Agronomy seeks to teach the study of the farm-field, its crops, and its science and management. It originally consisted of three sub-departments to do this: Soils, Farm-Crops, and Agricultural Engineering (which became its own department in 1907). Today, the department teaches crop sciences and breeding, soil sciences, meteorology, agroecology, and biotechnology.

The Department of Agronomy was formed in 1902. From 1917 to 1935 it was known as the Department of Farm Crops and Soils.

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  • Department of Farm Crops and Soils (1917–1935)

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Climate change and a desire for oil independency have stimulated interest in dedicated biomass crops for domestic biofuels production. Miscanthus × giganteus Greef et Deu., an exceptionally productive crop in the Midwestern USA, exhibits many ideal biomass crop traits, notably sterility which decreases invasive potential. Although a labor intensive process, rhizome propagation is the most common method for vegetatively propagating M. × giganteus. Stem propagation, investigated here, alleviates many challenges associated with rhizome production. Utilizing 30 °C soil and the first five nodal stem segments increased M. × giganteus propagation rates 12 fold of reported rhizome multiplication rates. Stem propagated plants (SPs) were field–tested at three sites in Iowa. I found that established SPs and rhizome propagated plants (RPs) yielded similarly, and averaged 24.7 Mg ha-1, similar to other Midwestern trials. Previous work showed that first–year M. × giganteus exhibited poor winter survival. In contrast, I found very high (> 99 %) first winter survival for both SPs and RPs. However, establishment losses for RPs and SPs were very high: 40 times greater than first winter losses. Winter survival was high in Iowa trials, but plants remained green until a killing frost; this observation is blamed for poor winter survival in early M. × giganteus trials. Here, the anecdotal assertion that first–year M. × giganteus exhibits minimal leaf senescence in the first autumn was supported quantitatively by photosynthetic and leaf N measurements. At the end of the first season, M. × giganteus exhibited photosynthetic rates, photosystem II efficiencies and leaf N up to 4, 4 and 2.4 times greater, respectively, than third–year plants, indicating delayed senescence.

Tue Jan 01 00:00:00 UTC 2013