Enhanced evapotranspiration was observed during extreme drought from Miscanthus, opposite of other crops

Eva Joo, Marcelo Zeri, Mir Zaman Hussain, Evan H. DeLucia, Carl J. Bernacchi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The impact of extreme drought and heat stress that occurred in the Midwestern U.S. in 2012 on evapotranspiration (ET), net ecosystem productivity (NEP), and water-use efficiency (WUE) of three perennial ecosystems (switchgrass, miscanthus, prairie) and a maize/soybean agroecosystem was studied as part of a long-term experiment. Miscanthus had a slower initial response but an eventually drastic ET as drought intensified, which resulted in the largest water deficit among the crops. The substantially higher ET at peak drought was likely supplied by access to deep soil water, but suggests that stomatal conductance of miscanthus during the drought may respond differently than the other ecosystems, consistent with an anisohydric strategy. While there was a discrepancy in the water consumption of maize and switchgrass/prairie in the early time of drought, all these ecosystems followed a water-saving strategy when drought intensified. The gross primary production (GPP) of miscanthus dropped, but was reversible, when temperature reached 40 °C and still provided the largest total GPP among the ecosystems. Increased ET for miscanthus during 2012 resulted a large decline in ecosystem WUE compared to what was observed in other years. The biophysical responses of miscanthus measured during an extreme, historic drought suggest that this species can maintain high productivity longer than other ecosystems during a drought at the expense of water use. While miscanthus maintained productivity during drought, recovery lagged associated with depleted soil moisture. The enhanced ET of miscanthus may intensify droughts through increase supply of deep soil moisture to the atmosphere.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1306-1319
Number of pages14
JournalGCB Bioenergy
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2017


  • Miscanthus × giganteus
  • eddy covariance
  • gross primary production
  • maize
  • net ecosystem productivity
  • prairie
  • soybean
  • stomata control
  • switchgrass
  • vapor pressure deficit
  • water use efficiency

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Forestry
  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • Agronomy and Crop Science
  • Waste Management and Disposal


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