The potential of two perennial C4 grasses and a perennial C4 sedge as ligno-Cellulosic fuel crops in N.W. Europe. Crop establishment and yields in E. England

L. Potter, M. J. Bingham, M. G. Baker, S. P. Long

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Three perennial C4 rhizomatous species, Cyperus longus L., Spartina cynosuroides and Spartina pectinata Link, were examined as potential renewable energy crops. These species are unusual among C4 plants in showing natural distributions which extend into cool temperate regions. This study examined whether these species could be established in the cool temperate climate of eastern England and whether they could consistently attain the relatively high dry matter yields associated with C4 plants of warmer regions. Clonally produced material was planted in 1986, on two sites with contrasting soil types in Essex, eastern England. Planting was within a randomized-block design incorporating replicated plots of each species, both with and without fertilizer. Survivorship and stem demography were monitored at monthly intervals from 1986 to Jun. 1989 for stem recruitment and to Dec. 1991 for stem density. Yields were determined from 1987 (the year following establishment) to 1993. Survivorship of the planted propagules over the first 12 months was 92% for S. pectinata, 96% for S. cynosuroides and 100% for C. longus. Recruitment of new stems peaked in Apr. of most years, although a significant number of new stems appeared as early as Feb. Stem death peaked in Sep. or early Oct. and all above-ground stems had died by mid-Nov. Stem density trends indicated that 2-4 years were required to reach a steady-state density, depending upon species. The stem density of the two Spartina species had reached more than 1000 m−2 in 1989 although that of S. pectinata fluctuated considerably in the subsequent years. C. longus stem density rose to approx. 600 m−2 by 1988 and did not change significantly in the subsequent years. In the 6 years following establishment, annual yields averaged across all fertilizer treatments and both sites were 1·0, 1·1 and 1·3 kg m−2 for C. longus, S. cynosuroides and S. pectinata, respectively. The average annual yield of all three species at the site with the heavier soil was 1·3 kg m−2. This was significantly greater than the 1·0 kg m−2 on the lighter soil. Nitrogen addition did not significantly increase yield. Even in the absence of any nitrogen addition, the annual yield of S. pectinata averaged 1·2 kg m−2 over the 6 years, with no evidence of any decline with the increasing age of the stands.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)513-520
Number of pages8
JournalAnnals of botany
Issue number5
StatePublished - Nov 1995
Externally publishedYes


  • Cyperus longus
  • Dry matter yield
  • Energy crop
  • Spartina cynosuroides
  • Spartina pectinata

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Plant Science


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