Hedtcke, J. L., G. R. Sanford, K. E. Hadley, and K. D. Thelen. 2014. Maximizing land use during switchgrass establishment in the North Central United States. Agronomy Journal 106:596-604.
Switchgrass (Panicum virgatum L.) grown under three differing establishment methods was evaluated for yield, quality, and potential ethanol production across seven environments in Wisconsin and Michigan. The three establishment methods included: (i) June seeding into fallow ground; (ii) June seeding following winter rye (Secale cereale L.) forage; and (iii) August seeding following winter wheat (Triticum aestivum L.). Planting switchgrass in June was successful following the rye forage crop, but planting in August after wheat resulted in complete stand loss. While harvested biomass in a two-cut system was equal to or greater than that realized in a one-cut system (6.9 vs. 6.8 Mg ha–1), biomass quality for ethanol production was highest following a killing frost (226 vs. 224 g ethanol kg–1 biomass). The higher overall biomass production in the two-cut system generally compensated for this difference however, with ethanol yields similar between the two systems (1950 vs. 1970 L ethanol ha–1 for the two- and one-cut system, respectively). In addition to ethanol production, we found that forage nutritive value in the first cut of the two-cut system was of sufficient quality to satisfy the dietary needs of several classes of livestock. Harvesting established switchgrass for hay with an early season cutting in a two-cut system provides producers with an alternative forage source while not affecting total seasonal biomass yield if harvested at the appropriate growth stage and cutting height to leave sufficient photosynthetic material for regrowth.
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