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MatCHing anD inDuStRy SMall gRant CoMpetitionS

Testing the potential of growing Giant reed (Arundo donax L.) for biomass production in Ohio
David Barker, Horticulture and Crop Science R. Mark Sulc, Horticulture and Crop Science

Giant reed is a grass species with high biomass production value and could possibly be a sustainable energy source. This resilient species has C4 physiology, which means it loses less water than plants e.g. wheat during adverse conditions such as drought and high temperatures, making it potentially productive during the Ohio summer. Giant reed is not native to Ohio, but has shown it can survive Ohios cold winters. Previous research indicates that giant reed can reproduce from its own underground stems, or rhizomes. The goal of this research project was to make the case that Giant reed can be successfully grown and used for future biomass research in Ohio. The objectives were to first, measure the transplant success of Giant reed from rhizomes; second, to measure the relationship between plant density and biomass; and finally, to measure transplant success under various establishment options. Giant reed rhizomes were replanted into an area that had been rotary-tilled. At each planting date, rhizomes were planted at either high density or low density. Each plant

was fertilized, the experimental area was covered with mulch for weed control, and no irrigation was used. The result from the first objective was that Giant reed was easily established from rhizomes, although earlier (May) transplanting was more successful than later (in June). Second, the team discovered that the higher-density planting resulted in a thicker final canopy than at low density; it would take three to four years for the low-density transplants to thicken to a satisfactory canopy. Finally, the researchers discovered that Giant reed also established from fall-planted stems, which may be more cost-effective than the labor-intensive method of planting rhizomes. All plants survived the winter and grew vigorously in spring 2011. Giant reed achieved exceptional yields, density, and height. Research still needs to be conducted on basic agronomic questions, such as fertilizer response, weed control options, and extrapolation of these establishment methods to a field scale, so that Giant reeds use as biomass can be more fully explored.

The researchers discovered that Giant reed established from fall-planted stems, which may be more costeffective than the laborintensive method of planting rhizomes.
David Barker SEEDS: The OARDC Research Enhancement Competitive Grants Program