Optimizing Miscanthus biomass production

    Project Details


    Main research question/goal
    To what extent are different genotypes of Miscanthus susceptible to chilling and frost damage? ILVO investigates the physiological mechanisms behind chilling and frost tolerance, factors that currently limit Miscanthus biomass production in Europe. The goal is to contribute to the development of new chilling- and frost-tolerant varieties. In addition to direct combustion, other valorization pathways are being evaluated, e.g. biogas production, processing of woody biomass into construction materials, bedding for farm animals or pets and the production of green chemicals (e.g. bio-ethanol, chlorophyll, proteins, etc.). Nowadays only one Miscanthus clone is being planted on a commercial scale in Europe. New varieties are needed to make Miscanthus more commmercially valuable. This ILVO study is part of the larger OPTIMISC project, an international collaboration whose goal is to understand the principal limitations to production, to test new varieties on different locations throughout Europe and to develop new high-value applications.

    Research approach
    We test 100 Miscanthus genotypes for chilling and frost tolerance and screen these varieties for quality parameters. To test chilling tolerance, we grow these plants in growth chambers at low temperatures and favourable temperatures. We determine chilling tolerance according to process and growth measurements. These processes include chlorophyll fluorescence and chlorophyll content measurement. Growth is assessed by measuring height, number of stems and growth rate of the leaves. We investigate frost stress through photoinhibition and cell wall damage after a period of acclimatization. Furthermore we store rhizomes for two months at different temperatures below zero to analyze winter survival. Quality parameters are determined on biomass harvested in a multiple-year field trial with 100 genotypes. In addition to general plant characteristics (flowering date, number of stems, height, etc.) we do biochemical analyses (combustion quality, cell wall composition, protein composition, chlorophyll content) carried out in the international collaboration of OPTIMISC.

    Miscanthus is a perennial C4 grass which produces high amounts of biomass with very low amounts of inputs. It is the most productive biomass crop in Europe and is therefore crucial to the development of a bio-based economy. The cultivation of Miscanthus is beneficial to the farmer because it offers high yields with limited inputs and it enables marginal land to be valorized. It is also beneficial for the environment because it requires only limited use of nitrogen fertilization or pesticides and it stores carbon in the soil through its rhizomes. The results of our research will be modelled to assist policy makers, farmers and industry. New valorization pathways will make the crop multifunctional, thereby ensuring a profitable price.
    Effective start/end date1/10/1131/03/16