With corn and soybean acreage being planted to capacity for ethanol and biodiesel, other acreage unsuited for row crop production has been targeted for renewable biofuel production from perennial grasses. The most notable is switchgrass. However, another species called miscanthus sinensis, commonly referred to as miscanthus, is a biomass crop that some researchers believe can help diversify U.S. domestic energy production.
The species in the Miscanthus genus are bulky, graceful and reed-like with well-developed seed heads on upright stems. Miscanthus sinensis is a large herbaceous perennial grass growing from 0.8 to 2.0 meters (rarely 4.0 meters) tall that forms dense clumps from underground rhizomes and has several zoological synonyms for varietal variants. It is known by the common name Chinese silver grass but also as maiden grass, zebra grass and porcupine grass. Miscanthus flourishes in subtropical and tropical regions of Africa and southern Asia, and is said to be native to eastern Asia where it grows throughout most of China, Japan and Korea.
Miscanthus is seen by some agriculturalists and bioenergy specialists as an ideal plant for producing fuel ethanol at a lower cost than corn, currently the most widespread source of the ethanol. Additionally, efficient biofuels are carbon-neutral sources of energy. Plants absorb atmospheric carbon dioxide during photosynthesis, which compensates for the carbon dioxide that is released when the biofuels are combusted. There have been reports in the popular press of miscanthus being commercially used in some European countries as a "clean, affordable, environmentally friendly energy cropping system." However, this claim was impossible to substantiate for this article. August 2012 ... Miscanthus
- Cellulosic Ethanol: Fuel of the future?, Science Daily, Stanford University, 2007 - The author can be reached at www.sciencedaily.com or 202-558-2103.
- Energy Biosciences Institute, 2009 - This article discusses development of current popular miscanthus cultivars and energy research in the United States. It also notes the potential problems to its adoption as an energy crop here and in Asia.
- Hybrid grass may prove to be valuable fuel source, University of Illinois, 2005 - Researchers say giant miscanthus, a hybrid grass that can grow 13 feet high, may be a valuable renewable fuel source for the future.
- Illinois-based study of energy crops finds miscanthus more productive than switchgrass, American Society of Plant Biologists (ASPB) Annual Meeting, July 2007, Chicago - Economical and efficient production of plant crops suitable for sustainable bioenergy production. Contact Brian Hyps, ASPB, at email@example.com or 240-354-5160.
- Miscanthus, National Centre for Biorenewable Energy, Fuels and Materials, UK, 2010 - Information on growing, harvesting and storing miscanthus in the UK and its uses as a non-food crop.
- Miscanthus for Biofuel Production, Cooperative Extension Service eXtension, 2010.
- Invasive Species, National Biological Information Infrastructure (NBII) & IUCN/SSC Invasive Species Specialist Group (ISSG), updated 2009 - Lists this species as a serious invasive species.
- Miscanthus, University of Illinois.
- Miscanthus hybrids for biomass production, AG 201, Iowa State University, 2007.
- Planting and Growing Miscanthus, Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs, UK, 2007 - This booklet is designed to introduce farmers to the energy crop miscanthus.
- Planting and Managing Giant Miscanthus as a Biomass Energy Crop, Natural Resources Conservation Service, 2011 - This online document outlines miscanthus establishment, pests and harvesting.
- The Pros and Cons of Miscanthus - Uses More Water, Leaches Less Nitrogen, University of Illinois Extension, 2010.
- Renewable Energy Initiative Will Put Illinois at Forefront of Farm Bioenergy Production, Inside Illinois, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 2007.
- Switch from Corn to Grass Would Raise Ethanol Output, Cut Emissions, University of Illinois, 2011.
- University of Illinois Researchers Find Miscanthus Outperforms Corn and Switchgrass as Ethanol Feedstock, 2008.
Links checked August 2013.