Delayed harvest can improve the quality of miscanthus biomass for combustion and enhance the long-term sustainability of the crop, despite accompanying yield losses. The aim of this study is to identify the optimal harvesting time, which can deliver improved biomass quality for combustion of novel miscanthus genotypes at various sites across Europe, without high yield losses and without compromising their environmental performance. The relevant field trials were established as part of the European project OPTIMISC with 15 genotypes at six sites across Europe. For this study, the five highest yielding genotypes from each germplasm group and three sites with contrasting climatic conditions (Stuttgart/Germany, Adana/Turkey and Moscow/Russia) were selected for assessment. The biomass samples were collected between August and March (depending on site) and subjected to mineral and ash content analysis. At Stuttgart, the delay in harvesting time led to a significant variation in combustion quality characteristics, such as N content (0.64-0.21%), ash content (5.15-2.60%) and ash sintering index (1.30-0.20). At Adana, the delay in harvesting time decreased the N content from 0.62 to 0.23%, ash content from 10.63 to 3.84% and sintering index from 0.54 to 0.07. At Moscow, the impact of delay in harvesting was not significant, except for N, Mg and ash sintering index. Overall, a delay in harvesting time improved the combustion quality characteristics of each genotype, but at the expense of yield. Yield losses of up to 49% in Stuttgart and Adana and 21% for Moscow were recorded, with variations between genotypes and sites. The harvesting time also affected nutrient offtake, which in turn influences the long-term environmental performance of the crop. The highest N, P and K offtakes were recorded at Stuttgart for each harvesting time except for final harvest (March), where Moscow had the highest N offtake. This study describes the three criteria (biomass quality, yield losses, nutrient offtake) for determining the ideal harvesting time, which gives the best compromise between dry matter yields and biomass quality characteristics without negatively affecting the environmental performance of the crop.
Bibliographical noteThe research work has been carried out as a part of OPTIMISC project, which received funding from the European Union Seventh Framework Programme (FP7/2007-2013) under grant agreement No. 289159. Authors would like to acknowledge all project partners for managing field trials at each site and providing samples. The authors wish to thank Dr. Jens Möhring for his support during the statistical analysis. Particular thanks go to the staff of the experimental station, Ihinger Hof, especially Thomas Truckses for providing help during field measurements and sample collection. The chemical analysis was supported by Dagmar Mezger and Martin Zahner. The manuscript was edited by Nicole Gaudet.
- harvesting time
- combustion quality
- yield loss
- nutrient offtake