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Accelerating early growth in miscanthus with the application of plastic mulch film

O'Loughlin, John, Finnan, John, McDonnell, Kevin
Biomass and bioenergy 2017 v.100 pp. 52-61
Miscanthus giganteus, biomass production, crops, economic sustainability, field experimentation, grasses, greenhouse gases, growing season, profitability, renewable energy sources, residual effects, rhizomes, Europe
Miscanthus is a low input, high yielding C4 rhizomatous grass which could be used in Europe to meet renewable energy targets mandated in the EU2020 Directive. Currently, it takes three years for the crop to reach full yield potential at which point an economically viable biomass yield is returned by the crop. Reducing the time before an economically viable crop is produced would increase the profitability of the crop. Field trials were established over three years to investigate methods of accelerating early growth of Miscanthus x giganteus crops. Various plastic mulch film treatments, rhizome water pre-treatments, rhizome hormone pre-treatments and ridge treatments were trialled in this study. The hot water, water, hormone and ridge treatments did not increase establishment rates or accelerate early growth. Establishment rates, average height, stem numbers and biomass yield was increased through the application of plastic mulch film in the first growing season in 2014, 2015 and 2016 (P < 0.0001). There was a residual effect of plastic treatment with sustained increases in height, stem numbers per plant and biomass yields in the second growing season (P < 0.0001). There was a significant increase in stem numbers in the plastic treatment during the third growing season (P < 0.05). Net increases in both economic and GHG abatement were achieved through the application of plastic mulch film which offers a practical means of accelerating the time needed for miscanthus crops to reach their full yield potential.