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Influence of harvest time on fuel characteristics of five potential energy crops in northern China

Xiong, Shaojun, Zhang, Quan-Guo, Zhang, Da-Yong, Olsson, Rolf
Bioresource technology 2008 v.99 no.3 pp. 479-485
energy crops, Onobrychis viciifolia, Amorpha fruticosa, sand, Panicum virgatum, Salix, harvest date, grasses, autumn, chlorine, biomass, semiarid zones, fuels, spring, ash content, semiarid soils, Phalaris arundinacea, soil resources, Europe, China, North America
Five potential energy crops in northern China were examined for fuel characteristics over different harvest times to test whether or not a delayed harvest improves fuel quality in a semiarid area in China as is the case in northern Europe and North America. The five crops include indigo bush (Amorpha fruticosa), sand willow (Salix cheilophila), switch grass (Panicum virgatum), reed canary grass (Phalaris arundinacea), and sainfoin (Onobrychis viciifolia). These crops are considered as fuels for thermal conversion. From September 2002 to April 2003, biomass was sampled monthly, and the effects of harvest time on the fuel characteristics of the five crops were studied. With respect to ash and some undesired element contents in biomass, a delayed harvest in spring resulted in a better fuel quality than a traditional harvest in autumn. Of the five species, indigo bush and sand willow had the lowest ash contents when harvested in spring. Switch grass is a promising herbaceous energy crop in semiarid areas in terms of its yield, fuel characteristics, and low water use. Chlorine had the most significant correlation with harvest time and ash content in the biomass. In a comparison with the biofuel crops in Europe and North America, a much higher proportion of chlorine was found in all examined plants. The results from this study indicate that an energy crop with delayed harvest may extend fuel resources and conserve soil in semiarid regions in northern China, practices that will help maintain and improve economical and ecological sustainability.