Natural Resources, School of


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Kucharik CJ, VanLoocke A, Lenters JD, Motew MM (2013) Miscanthus Establishment and Overwintering in the Midwest USA: A Regional Modeling Study of Crop Residue Management on Critical Minimum Soil Temperatures. PLoS ONE 8(7): e68847. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0068847


Copyright 2013 Kucharik et al. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.


Miscanthus is an intriguing cellulosic bioenergy feedstock because its aboveground productivity is high for low amounts of agrochemical inputs, but soil temperatures below ‒3.5°C could threaten successful cultivation in temperate regions. We used a combination of observed soil temperatures and the Agro-IBIS model to investigate how strategic residue management could reduce the risk of rhizome threatening soil temperatures. This objective was addressed using a historical (1978–2007) reconstruction of extreme minimum 10 cm soil temperatures experienced across the Midwest US and model sensitivity studies that quantified the impact of crop residue on soil temperatures. At observation sites and for simulations that had bare soil, two critical soil temperature thresholds (50% rhizome winterkill at ‒3.5°C and ‒6.0°C for different Miscanthus genotypes) were reached at rhizome planting depth (10 cm) over large geographic areas. The coldest average annual extreme 10 cm soil temperatures were between ‒8°C to ‒11°C across North Dakota, South Dakota, and Minnesota. Large portions of the region experienced 10 cm soil temperatures below ‒3.5°C in 75% or greater for all years, and portions of North and South Dakota, Minnesota, and Wisconsin experienced soil temperatures below ‒6.0°C in 50–60% of all years. For simulated management options that established varied thicknesses (1–5 cm) of miscanthus straw following harvest, extreme minimum soil temperatures increased by 2.5°C to 6°C compared to bare soil, with the greatest warming associated with thicker residue layers. While the likelihood of 10 cm soil temperatures reaching ‒3.5°C was greatly reduced with 2– 5 cm of surface residue, portions of the Dakotas, Nebraska, Minnesota, and Wisconsin still experienced temperatures colder than ‒3.5°C in 50–80% of all years. Nonetheless, strategic residue management could help increase the likelihood of overwintering of miscanthus rhizomes in the first few years after establishment, although low productivity and biomass availability during these early stages could hamper such efforts.