Liu, L. and B. Basso. 2017. Spatial evaluation of switchgrass productivity under historical and future climate scenarios in Michigan. GCB Bioenergy 9:1320-1332.
Switchgrass (Panicum virgatum) productivity on marginal and fertile lands has not been thoroughly evaluated in a systematic manner that includes soil–crop–weather–management interactions and to quantify the risk of failure or success in growing the crop. We used the Systems Approach to Land Use Sustainability (SALUS) model to identify areas with low risk of failing to having more than 8000 kg ha−1 yr−1 switchgrass aboveground net primary productivity (ANPP) under rainfed and unfertilized conditions. In addition, we diagnosed constraining factors for switchgrass growth, and tested the effect of nitrogen fertilizer application on plant productivity across Michigan for 30 years under three climate scenarios (baseline climate in 1981–2010, future climate with emissions using RCP 2.6 and RCP 6.0). We determined that <16% of land in Michigan may have at least 8 Mg ha−1 yr−1 ANPP under rainfed and unfertilized management with a low risk of failure. Of the productive low-risk land, about 25% was marginal land, with more than 80% of which was affected by limited water availability due to low soil water-holding capacity and shallow depth. About 80% of the marginal land was N limited under baseline conditions, but that percentage decreased to 58.5% and 42.1% under RCP 2.6 and RCP 6.0 climate scenarios, respectively, partly due to shorter growing season, smaller plants and less N demand. We also found that the majority of Michigan’s land could have high switchgrass ANPP and low risk of failure with no more than 60 kgN ha−1 fertilizer input. We believe that the methodology used in this study works at different spatial scales, as well as for other biofuel crops.
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