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Geneticist Bill Anderson measures the height of napiergrass in a research plot in Georgia

Geneticist Bill Anderson measures the height of napiergrass in a research plot in Georgia

Elephant Grass Trumpeted as Bio-Feedstock

Side by side comparison of bioenergy crops
Side by side comparison of popular bioenergy crops for the Southeast. From left to right: energy cane, switchgrass, miscanthus x gigantius, and Napier grass. (Bill Anderson, D4766-1)

Napier grass, otherwise known as elephant grass, has the highest biomass productivity of any grass that has been tested for biofuel feedstock cropping in the southeastern United States. 

To maximize elephant grass’s utility as a bioethanol feedstock, ARS scientists from the Crop Genetics and Breeding Research  and Southeast Watershed Research Units in Tifton, GA, and the Bioenergy Research Unit in Peoria, IL conducted research on how farm management practices could impact its production.  One important discovery was that if the crop was fertilized in May and harvested in December just once a year, elephant grass production could remain consistent for the next 5 years.  In contrast, two harvests a year (in June and December) led to dramatic declines in production beginning in the 3rd year. ARS researchers continue to help farmers and biofuel producers better understand elephant grass’s capacity as a biofuel feedstock and improve production efficiency for all types of bio-feedstocks. 

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