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Laboratory for Cellular Metabolism and Engineering Research Organisms

Research Organisms


Miscanthus is a genus of more than 20 species of perennial grasses, most of which are native to eastern or south-eastern Asia and Pacific Islands (Chou, et al. 2009). Miscanthus is an environmentally friendly crop, and it has good energy balance and output/input ratios. Its large rhizome/root system captures nutrients and stems provide wildlife cover. The rapid growth, low mineral content and high biomass yield (up to 4 m in height, dry weight yield 30 t/ha/yr) of Miscanthus make it a favorite choice as a biofuel crop. The capacity of Miscanthus × giganteus to fix carbon dioxide is estimated to be 5.2-7.2 tC/ha/yr, which results in a negative carbon balance where more CO2 is fixed than emitted (Clifton-Brown, et al. 2007). Miscanthus × giganteus could produce enough ethanol to offset 20% of current United States gasoline consumption, while requiring 9.3% of current agricultural acreage. By contrast, using corn or switchgrass to produce the same amount would require 25% of current U.S. cropland. Of course, it is highly undesirable to replace any crop land with biofuel production, thus the desire to develop cultivars that would be able to grow on more marginal lands.

Miscanthus is a sterile hybrid which does not form fertile seeds, but it can be propagated by micropropagation or by rhizome cutting. In typical production systems, the rhizomes are approximately 4-inches deep and 3-feet apart within rows and 3-feet between rows. Optimal rhizome size is 50-60 g or larger. The crop is normally harvested from the 2nd year onwards, but yields continue to improve until they level off around the 5th or 6th year. The life of miscanthus can extend to 15 years.

Chou CH. (2009) Miscanthus plants used as an alternative biofuel material: The basic studies on ecology and molecular evolution. Renewable Energy 34: 1908-1912

Clifton-Brown et al. (2007) Carbon mitigation by the energy crop, Miscanthus. Global Change Biol. 13, 2296-2307