Modeled spatial assessment of biomass productivity and technical potential of Miscanthus× giganteus, Panicum virgatum L. and Jatropha on marginal land in China

Bingquan Zhang*, Astley Hastings, John Cedric Clifton-Brown, Dong Jiang, André P.C. Faaij

*Corresponding author for this work

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This article identifies marginal land technically available for the production of energy crops in China, compares three models of yield prediction for Miscanthus × giganteus, Panicum virgatum L. (switchgrass) and Jatropha, and estimates their spatially‐specific yields and technical potential for 2017. Geographic Information System (GIS) analysis of land use maps estimated that 185 Mha of marginal land was technically available for energy crops in China without using areas currently used for food production. Modelled yields were projected for Miscanthus × giganteus, a GIS‐based Environmental Policy Integrated Climate model for switchgrass and Global Agro‐Ecological Zone model for Jatropha. GIS analysis and MiscanFor estimated more than 120 Mha marginal land was technically available for Miscanthus with a total potential of 1761 dry weight metric million tonne (DW Mt)/yr. A total of 284 DW Mt/yr of switchgrass could be obtained from 30 Mha marginal land, with an average yield of 9.5 DW t ha‐1 yr‐1. More than 35 Mha marginal land was technically available for Jatropha, delivering 9.7 Mt yr‐1 of Jatropha seed. The total technical potential from available marginal land was calculated as 31.7 EJ yr‐1 for Miscanthus, 5.1 EJ yr‐1 for switchgrass, and 0.13 EJ yr‐1 for Jatropha. A total technical bioenergy potential of 34.4 EJ yr‐1 was calculated by identifying best suited crop for each 1km2 grid cell based on the highest energy value among the three crops. The results indicate the technical potential per hectare of Jatropha is unable to compete with that of the other two crops in each grid cell. This modelling study provides planners with spatial overviews that demonstrate the potential of these crops and where biomass production could be potentially distributed in China which needs field trials to test model assumptions and build experience necessary to translate into practicality.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)328-345
Number of pages18
JournalGlobal Change Biology. Bioenergy
Issue number5
Early online date31 Mar 2020
Publication statusPublished - May 2020

Bibliographical note

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS This study was supported by Chinese Scholarship Council (CSC). We thank our colleagues from Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research, Chinese Academy of Sciences for data collection, and thank Tao Sang from the Institute of Botany of Chinese Academy of Sciences for providing data. The MiscanFor modeling was supported by UK NERC ADVENT (NE/1806209) and FAB-GGR (NE/P019951/1) project funding. John Clifton-Brown received support from the United Kingdom's DEFRA (Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs) as part of the MISCOMAR project (FACCE SURPLUS, Sustainable and Resilient Agriculture for food and non-food systems)


  • biomass
  • energy crop
  • Jatropha
  • marginal land
  • Miscanthus × giganteus
  • switchgrass
  • technical potential
  • yield modelling
  • yield modeling
  • Miscanthus × giganteus
  • Miscanthus x giganteus
  • FUEL
  • US
  • FOOD


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