Varieties Available

Blackwell

 Alamo

SWITCHGRASS

(Panicum virgatum)
Alamo Switchgrass - The Ultimate Biomass Crop - has produced as much as 15 Tons/Acre.

Switchgrass is a vigorous, native, perennial, bunchgrass that grows throughout most of the United States. This warm-season grass is an exceptional forage for pasture and hay for livestock. The plant also provides excellent cover for wildlife populations; the seed provides a quality food source for gamebirds. It's most abundant and important as a forage and pasture grass in the central and southern parts of the Great Plains. It usually grows 3 to 8 feet high, with large, vigorous rhizomes. Because of its deep penetrating root system, it can handle drought periods better than most grasses and provides outstanding erosion control. The stand looks like a colony rather than a sod. The flowering head is a widely branching open panicle. The leaves are usually from 1/2 to 1 inch wide and 6 to 30 inches long. Leaves are green to bluish-green.Switchgrass grows on nearly all soil types but is most abundant and thrives best on moist low areas of relatively high fertility.

Heavy, vigorous roots and underground stems make the species excellent for conservation use. Seedling growth is aggressive. Usually switchgrass is seeded with the species with which it occurs naturally. Best seedling stands have been obtained where plantings were made on a clean, firm, well-prepared seedbed.
Growth begins in mid-spring and continues through the summer if there is enough moisture. Forage is produced in abundance, especially during the period of early rapid growth, and is acceptable to livestock. Cutting the grass for hay before seed heads begin to form will insure quality hay.
Switchgrass is unique in that it can withstand flooding and saturated soils for long periods of time after it is established. It is very responsive to fertilizers.  A January forage test from a bale of Alamo Switchgrass baled in June returned with 15.3 % crude protein.  See attached forage test.

 

 

Alamo Switchgrass

Alamo Switchgrass

switchgrass seed


 

General Characteristics

Growth Type

Bunch

Life Span 

Perennial

Growing Season

Warm Season

Native/Introduced

Native

Plant Height

3-10 '

Cold Tolerance

Good

Drought Tolerance

Fair-Good

Salt Tolerance

Good

Soil Type

Sandy - Clay

Minimum Rainfall

18- inches

Planting Rate

5-8 pls#

Planting Date

Dec. - June

Seed Type

Smooth

Uses

Grazing
Wildlife Habitat
Erosion Control
Reclamation

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Planting rates above are for pure stands, if utilized in a blend decrease the seeding rate according to the percentage of the component in the blend.

Switchgrass map

 

  ALAMO
Alamo Switchgrass 
The Ultimate Biomass Crop - has produced as much as 15 Tons/Acre
Alamo Switchgrass is the leader of renewable cellulosic and biomass production.
Alamo switchgrass is a selection released in 1978 by the USDA Soil Conservation Service in Texas in cooperation with the Texas Agricultural Experiment Station. Alamo came from a collection originally made from a native switchgrass stand along the Frio River in South Texas. Alamo is blue-green in color, usually slightly waxy and taller than the Blackwell variety. The Alamo variety is the tallest and has the longest leaves. This variety is believed to be the most productive, warm-season, perennial in North America. Flowering occurs one to two months later than Blackwell, thus: extending quality forage over a longer period. The seeds are smaller than most commercial switchgrass and should be seeded at a rate of (5 - 8 Lbs. PLS/acre) whether broadcast or drilled.

Alamo is adapted to areas receiving (25 in.) or more of normal precipitation and most other areas where moisture is supplemented by irrigation, overflow, or additional runoff. Performance has been good on all types of soils from clays to fine sands, except where severe weed competition exists during establishment.

 

Information on Cellulosic Ethanol, Switchgrass as a Biomass crop, and BCAP - Biomass Crop assistance program

Impact of the Energy Bill on Agriculture

The recently signed energy bill will have large impacts on agriculture in the US. The following is an article on the subject.

President Bush signed into law on Dec. 19 an energy bill that will have larger long-term impacts on U.S. agriculture than the pending Agriculture Bill, said a Purdue University expert. By increasing the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS) to 36 billion gallons by 2022, the bill provides a roadmap for the production of renewable fuels from our nation's farms and forests.

 

 

Cellulosic ethanol will become the dominate growth portion of the industry after 2010. Total cellulosic ethanol is expected to grow from zero to 21 billion gallons by 2022.

 

Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) acres may largely shift toward cellulosic energy crops in areas of the country.

 

  • A large amount of research, development and experimentation will occur to discover the most economic ways to produce these new cellulosic energy crops.
    * Most of the crops will be land and natural resource based which means agriculture will be called upon to meet these enormous challenges and to also reap the potential rewards.

 

Sustainable crops can strengthen energy security, promote economic development, and protect the environment.

 

Biofuels are produced from living organisms or from metabolic by-products (organic or food waste products). In order to be considered a biofuel the fuel must contain over 80 percent renewable materials.

Test plots of Switchgrass at Auburn University have produced up to 15 tons of dry biomass per acre. Five-year yields average 11.5 tons, enough to make 1,150 gallons of ethanol per acre each year. Additional studies show that Switchgrass ethanol produces 94% less CO2 than oil.

A biofuel is originally derived from the photosynthesis process and can therefore often be referred to as a solar energy source. There are pros and cons to using biofuels as an energy source, however, rising petroleum prices are not among them. Merrill Lynch commodity strategist Francisco Blanch remarked that oil and gasoline prices would be about 15 percent higher if biofuel producers were not increasing their output.

In fact, the U. S. biodiesel industry is helping increase the nation's refining capacity by building plants that produce an American-made, cleaner burning fuel. The 500 million gallons of biodiesel produced in the U.S. in 2007 displaced 20 million barrels of petroleum. Biodiesel is an extremely efficient fuel that creates 3.5 units of energy for every unit of fuel that is required to produce the fuel.

 

A Potential Goldmine

Alamo Switchgrass, a Texas native plant, contains enormous amounts of sugar that can be refined into ethanol. It can be burned to produce electricity or used as a feedstock for cellulosic ethanol. Many farmers already grow switchgrass, either as forage for livestock or as a ground cover to control erosion, so cultivating it as an energy crop would be an easy switch. The challenge for scientists is in unlocking the sugars held in switchgrass so that it can be converted into cellulosic ethanol.

Finely ground switchgrass is an excellent feedstock to co-fire with coal in a coal-firing energy facility to displace a small amount of coal used.

DOE (Dept. of Energy) has stepped up its research on the role of switchgrass in biomass production, with the goal of promoting its use in producing ethanol and biodiesel at prices competitive with gasoline and diesel.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

BLACKWELL
Blackwell is a widely used variety of switchgrass for irrigated pastures, range plantings, and erosion control sites. It was developed at the Manhattan, Kansas Plant Materials Center and released in 1944 by the Kansas Experiment Station and the USDA Soil Conservation Service.
Blackwell ranks high in leafiness, total forage production, and resistance to rust and other diseases. Blackwell switchgrass will grow on a diverse range of soil types and favorable lowland sites in areas of (15 to 20 in.) of annual precipitation.

 

Switchgrass for Co-Generation Fuel Feasibility

-Chris Ferland

Switchgrass (Panicum virgatum L.) is a native grass species to much of the USA. It has recently shown great potential for use in production of fuel ethanol from cellulosic biomass (Lynd et al., 1991). Work in Alabama demonstrated very high dry matter yields can be achieved with Switchgrass (Maposse, et al., 1995) in the Southeastern USA. Therefore, this region is thought to be an excellent choice for development of a Switchgrass cropping system where farmers can produce the grass for either biomass or forage.

Except for the far western states, Switchgrass occurs naturally throughout the contiguous USA (Moser and Vogel, 1995). Although possessing rhizomes, Switchgrass is an upright growing species capable of producing high dry matter yields. Traditionally, Switchgrass is used as a forage and conservation crop. Recently, its use in biofuel production of ethanol has been proposed (Lynd et al. 1991). When combining its uses of forage, conservation, and biofuel production, farming systems based on Switchgrass could become an economic boom for farmers interested in sustainable and profitable farming enterprises.

Switchgrass varieties and ecotypes are classified as either lowland or upland types (Moser and Vogel, 1995). Lowland types occur in river bottom areas, are tall and robust, possess a bunch-type growth habit, and are tetraploids (2n=36). Upland types are shorter and finer, possess long rhizomes which allow them to spread more, and are either hexaploids or octoploids (2n=54, 72).


In a six year study in Alabama, the lowland variety
Alamo was found to average 24.5 Mg ha-1 (approx. 11 Tons) dry matter yield (Maposse et al., 1995) This was 42% more dry matter than another lowland type, Kanlow, but also 135% higher than the average of the six upland varieties in the trial ('Blackwell', 'Cave-in-Rock', Kansas Native, 'Pathfinder', 'Summer', and 'Trailblazer'). This amount of dry matter production would be considered much higher than that which could be achieved with other warm-season grasses used in the Southeastern USA.

 

Switchgrass for Ethanol & Biodiesel

Switchgrass is highly adaptive. You can grow it from the Rocky Mountains of Canada all the way to the Gulf of Mexico. It was promoted for its wildlife benefits and all of that years ago. Then, when switchgrass was recognized as having the best potential for energy, the focus started to shift.

Switchgrass has one of the highest potentials for use as a biofuel crop in the United States, mainly because it grows well under a wide range of conditions.

As a fast growing energy crop, or closed loop biomass, switchgrass yields over 1,000 gallons per acre, more than 3 times the yield of corn. Switchgrass and sorghum are from the same family; both are short term crops and produce prolifically with limited water, insecticides or fertilizer needs. Switchgrass prevents soil erosion as it restores vital organic nutrients to the soil, so that it can be cultivated repeatedly in the same enriched soil.

In his January 28, 2006 State of the Union address, President Bush emphasized that the U.S. must break its addiction to foreign sources of energy and outlined an initiative to make fuel ethanol from renewable energy crops such as switchgrass by 2012.

Texas Governor Rick Perry announced the Texas Bioenergy Strategy, and awarded a $5 million Texas Emerging Technology Fund grant to Texas A&M University for research and biofuel advancements. In a four year project, Texas A&M University and the Chevron Corroboration are partnering on research efforts to find ways to speed up harvesting of cellulose crops and turning them into biofuels. The Governor said that Texas will focus on creating biofuels through cellulosic feedstock such as switchgrass, wood chips and corn stems - rather than from corn crops, which are a staple for the Texas cattle industry.

 

 

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