U.S. Department of Agriculture: Agricultural Research Service, Lincoln, Nebraska


Document Type


Date of this Version



Published in Bioresource Technology 100 (2009) 1809-1814.


Switchgrass (Panicum virgatum L.) is a warm season perennial grass with great potential as an energy crop in the USA. It is widely adapted to many regions of the country, produces large amounts of biomass, serves as a useful forage grass, and provides ecosystem services that benefit soil and water quality and wildlife. Biological and thermochemical technologies are being developed to convert herbaceous biomass, including switchgrass, to energy. The objective of this research was to determine the effect of genotype and production environment on the concentration of minerals that affect the suitability of switchgrass for thermochemical conversion and to quantify the amount of potassium (K) and phosphorus (P) removed from the production system by harvest of the aboveground biomass, a measure of the sustainability of the practice. Straw dry biomass contained from 1.3 to 6.4 kg Mg-1 and from 6.2 to 15.8 kg M-1 of P and K, respectively. Variability in aluminum (Al), calcium (Ca), chloride (Cl), K, P, silicon (Si), and sulfur (S) concentrations across locations was relatively high, ranging from twofold (Al) to eightfold (CI). Location had a strong impart on mineral concentrations among switchgrass genotypes evaluated in this study. Latitude of origin imparted the CI and Si concentrations measured in plant tissues, but none of the other minerals analyzed in this study. Upland and lowland cytotypes explained some of the observed differences, but population x location interactions were the primary source of variability in the concentration of these minerals.