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Biomass sorghum production and components under different irrigation/tillage systems for the southeastern U.S.

Rocateli, A.C., Raper, R.L., Balkcom, K.S., Arriaga, F.J., Bransby, D.I.
Industrial crops and products 2012 v.36 no.1 pp. 589-598
Sorghum bicolor, Zea mays, aboveground biomass, ash content, biomass production, conservation tillage, conventional tillage, corn, drought tolerance, energy crops, forage, grain sorghum, in-row tillage, irrigation, lignin, lodging, oils, photoperiod, plant height, planting, polysaccharides, production technology, renewable energy sources, subsoiling, water content, Alabama
Renewable energy sources are necessary to reduce the U.S. dependence on foreign oil. Sorghum (Sorghum bicolor L.) may be a reasonable alternative as an energy crop in the southern U.S. because it could easily fit into existing production systems, it is drought resistant, and it has large biomass production potential. An experiment was conducted to evaluate several types of sorghum as bioenergy crops in Alabama: grain sorghum – NK300 (GS), forage sorghum – SS 506 (FS), and photoperiod sensitive forage sorghum – 1990 (PS). These sorghum crops were compared to forage corn (Zea mays L.) – Pioneer 31G65 in 2008 and 2009 with and without irrigation, and under conventional (total disked area, 0.15m deep) and conservation tillage (in-row subsoiling, 0.30m deep) in a strip-split-plot design. The parameters evaluated were: plant population (PP), plant height (PH), sorghum/corn aboveground dry matter (ADM), biomass moisture content (ABMC), and biomass quality (holocellulose, lignin, and ash). Sorghum had greater ADM than corn; however, corn had lower ABMC than sorghum. Lodging was observed in PS and FS, probably due to high plant populations (>370,000plantsha⁻¹). Irrigation affected ADM positively in both years, but conservation systems improved ADM production only in 2009. Holocellulose, lignin, and ash variation differed significantly among crops but were lower than 8.3%, 2.0% and 1.9%, respectively, for both years and considered minor. Under conditions of this study, PS was considered the best variety for ADM production as it yielded 26.0 and 30.1Mgha⁻¹ at 18 and 24 weeks after planting (WAP).