January 08, 2008

Switchgrass Study Shows Promise

Switchgrass has been hailed as one of the future ethanol feedstocks with great promise. But up until this point most of the research had been done in the lab and actual performance under real world conditions was unknown. The results of this study suggest that under real world conditions switchgrass will perform even better than expected.

A large-scale trial of switchgrass suggests that the crop may be a more viable plant source of biofuel than previously thought, according to a study released Monday.

A five year trial of the native North American prairie grass on farmland in the Midwestern United States revealed that the crop produces 540 percent more renewable energy than energy consumed in its production.

Previous estimates, based on small scale research plots, suggested the grass would yield a net energy production of about 343 percent. Net energy production is considered an important measure of sustainability.

The report also suggests that further improvements can be made.

"There is a lot of potential to make further improvements," he added. "The plants used in this trial were developed for pasture and conservation. We're now breeding plants specifically to be used as energy crops."

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