Agronomy and Horticulture Department


Date of this Version



Published in Crop Sci. (2006) 46: 157-161.


Switchgrass (Panicum virgatum L.) is a warm-season (C4) perennial grass and a potential bioenergy crop. On-farm switchgrass field scale trials, which were initiated to obtain economic production information for switchgrass grown as a bioenergy crop in the northern Plains, provided information on establishment year stands and post-establishment year yields and stands both within and across fields and were used to determine if a stand threshold exists for switchgrass grown as a biomass energy crop. Switchgrass was seeded in 10 cropland fields, ranging in size from 3 to 9.5 ha, in Nebraska, South Dakota, and North Dakota in 2000 and 2001. The fields were selected to be representative of their region and eligible for the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP). Twelve sites within each field were geo-referenced, and switchgrass stand frequency was measured at each sample site. Biomass yields were estimated in late summer at the same within field sites using a clipped quadrant. Fields with low initial switchgrass stand frequencies showed a linear relationship between initial switchgrass stands and second year stands and biomass yields. Results from the 10 field, three-state study indicated that establishment year stand frequency level of 40% or greater, determined by a frequency grid, can be considered an establishment year stand threshold for establishment success and subsequent post-planting year biomass yields for switchgrass. An establishment year stand frequency of 25% would be adequate for a switchgrass conservation planting in which no harvests would be planned for several years.