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The productivity and energy potential of alfalfa, fodder galega and maize plants under the conditions of the nemoral zone

Virmantas Povilaitis, Alvyra Šlepetienė, Jonas Šlepetys, Sigitas Lazauskas, Vita Tilvikienė, Kristina Amalevičiūtė, Dalia Feizienė, Virginijus Feiza, Inga Liaudanskienė, Jurgita Cesevičienė, Žydrė Kadžiulienė, Arnas Kukujevas
Acta agriculturæ Scandinavica 2016 v.66 no.3 pp. 259-266
C4 plants, Galega orientalis, Medicago sativa, Zea mays, alfalfa, biomass, calorimeters, carbon, carbon nitrogen ratio, combustion, corn, energy, energy crops, field experimentation, forage, forage legumes, forestry, growing season, nitrogen, nitrogen content, nitrogen fertilizers, organic fertilizers, renewable energy sources, sulfur
This study aimed to investigate the productivity of two C3 legumes – alfalfa (Medicago sativa L.) and fodder galega (Galega orientalis Lam.) – and the feasibility of their use as renewable energy resources. Maize (Zea mays L.), a well-established bioenergy crop belonging to the C4 plant group, was used as a baseline in comparison. Field trials were conducted at the Institute of Agriculture at the Lithuanian Research Centre for Agriculture and Forestry during the period 2012–2013. The perennial forage legumes were grown without mineral or organic fertilizers. The maize was grown (a) without and (b) with nitrogen fertilizers. The perennial forage legumes were harvested three times per growing season. Carbon (C), nitrogen (N) and sulphur (S) contents of biomass were determined by using a dry combustion method. The calorific value of biomass was determined by a combustion method using an IKA bomb calorimeter. The largest share of the total annual yield of biomass of perennial forage legumes was obtained from the first cut and amounted to 54% and 57% for alfalfa and fodder galega, respectively. The S content of biomass was similar in all crops investigated, but the N content was higher in perennial forage legumes. Biomass C content did not differ between the crops, but the C:N ratio was widely varied – from 28–35 in fertilized maize, to 16–17 in alfalfa and 15–16 in fodder galega. This study showed that alfalfa and fodder galega can be grown as energy crops under less intensive management; however, the specific chemical composition of biomass should be considered before choosing the most appropriate conversion process.