Biomass Yield and Composition of Switchgrass Bales on Marginal Land as Influenced by Harvest Management Scheme
Switchgrass (Panicum virgatum L.) is well suited to marginal croplands, but is difficult to manage sustainably both for maximum yield and optimal biomass composition. Quality can be improved by overwintering switchgrass in the field, but more information is needed on amount and consistency of yield recovery in spring. Two cultivars of switchgrass were sown on separate fields in Freeville, NY, and mowed and baled in late fall (FALL), mowed in fall and baled in spring (WINTER), or mowed and baled in spring (SPRING), using conventional field harvesting equipment. Samples were collected for analysis of plant morphological components and for determining the influence of harvest stubble height on yield and composition. Recovery of FALL biomass yields the following spring ranged from 52 to 82% and was related to both total winter snowfall and to the spring date when soil was dry enough to allow equipment traffic. Approximately 1% of dry matter yield was left in the field for each centimeter of stubble height following mowing. Bale moisture content was very low in spring, averaging 7.3%, but was much more variable and higher in the fall, averaging 22% for “Cave-in-Rock”. Inflorescence and leaf blade were the primary morphological components lost in standing switchgrass over winter. The SPRING treatment can be mowed and baled on the same day without other field operations and has higher quality than WINTER, with no consistent yield advantage for either spring baling treatment. The large and variable yield loss due to overwintering switchgrass in the field makes the practice questionable.
Publisher URL: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s12155-017-9875-y
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