Progress in upscaling Miscanthus biomass production for the European bio-economy with seed-based hybrids 

John Clifton-Brown, Astley Francis St John Hastings, Michal Mos, Jon P. McCalmont, Chris Ashman, Danny Awty-Carroll, Joanna Cerazy, Yu-Chung Chiang, Salvatore Cosentino, William Cracroft-Eley, Jonathan Scurlock, Iain S. Donnison, Chris Glover, Izabela Gołąb, Jörg M. Greef, Jeff Gwyn, Graham Harding, Charlotte Hayes, Waldemar Helios, Tsai-Wen HsuLin S. Huang, Stanisław Jeżowski, Do-Soon Kim, Andreas Kiesel, Andrzej Kotecki, Jacek Krzyzak, Iris Lewandowski, Soo Hyun Lim, Jianxiu Liu, Marc Loosely, Heike Meyer, Donal Murphy-Bokern, Walter Nelson, Marta Pogrzeba, George Robinson, Paul Robson, Charlie Rogers, Giovanni Scalici, Heinrich Schuele, Reza Shafiei, Oksana Shevchuk, Kai-Uwe Schwarz, Michael Squance, Tim Swaller, Judith Thornton, Thomas Truckses, Vasile Botnari, Igor Vizir, Moritz Wagner, Robin Warren, Richard Webster, Toshihiko Yamada, Sue Youell, Qingguo Xi, Junqin Zong, Richard Flavell

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Field trials in Europe with Miscanthus over the past 25 years have demonstrated that interspecies hybrids such as M. × giganteus (M × g) combine both high yield potentials and low inputs in a wide range of soils and climates. Miscanthus hybrids are expected to play a major role in the provision of perennial lignocellulosic biomass across much of Europe as part of a lower carbon economy. However, even with favourable policies in some European countries, uptake has been slow. M × g, as a sterile clone, can only be propagated vegetatively, which leads to high establishment costs and low multiplication rates. Consequently, a decade ago, a strategic decision to develop rapidly multiplied seeded hybrids was taken. To make progress on this goal, we have (1) harnessed the genetic diversity in Miscanthus by crossing and progeny testing thousands of parental combinations to select several candidate seed-based hybrids adapted to European environments, (2) established field scale seed production methods with annual multiplication factors >1500×, (3) developed the agronomy for establishing large stands from seed sown plug plants to reduce establishment times by a year compared to M × g, (4) trialled a range of harvest techniques to improve compositional quality and logistics on a large scale, (5) performed spatial analyses of yield potential and land availability to identify regional opportunities across Europe and doubled the area within the bio-climatic envelope, (6) considered on-farm economic, practical and environmental benefits that can be attractive to growers. The technical barriers to adoption have now been overcome sufficiently such that Miscanthus is ready to use as a low-carbon feedstock in the European bio-economy.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)6-17
Number of pages12
JournalGlobal Change Biology. Bioenergy
Issue number1
Early online date24 Mar 2016
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2017

Bibliographical note

Funded by
UK's Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC)
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA). Grant Number: LK0863
BBSRC strategic programme Grant on Energy Grasses & Bio-refining. Grant Number: BBS/E/W/10963A01
OPTIMISC. Grant Number: FP7-289159
WATBIO. Grant Number: FP7-311929
Innovate UK/BBSRC ‘MUST’. Grant Number: BB/N016149/1


  • bioenergy
  • biomass
  • breeding
  • crop modelling
  • energy crops
  • land-use change
  • Miscanthus
  • perennial grasses
  • renewable energy


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