History of the development of Miscanthus as a bioenergy crop: from small beginnings to potential realisation

John Clifton-Brown, Kai-Uwe Schwarz, Astley Hastings

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Miscanthus, a genus of perennial C4 grasses from Eastern Asia, has strong biomass potential, combining high dry matter yields, perennial growth, efficient use of nitrogen and water and good disease resistance, making it one of the leading energy crops. We recount the history of Miscanthus research in Europe, starting with the introduction of ‘giganteus’ in 1935 to Denmark. In 1989 Mike Jones, of Trinity College Dublin, initiated Miscanthus research in Ireland and coordinated field trials in Europe in some of the earliest eco-physiological experiments that led to a better understanding of the exceptional performance of this C4 plant in temperate climates. These included the first Miscanthus field trial in Ireland, planted in 1990 in Cashel, County Tipperary, the output of which was used to parameterise the growth model MISCANMOD with the clone M. x giganteus. This model was developed later into a powerful and flexible Fortran version (MiscanFor) that is now used to predict Miscanthus crop performance in different soils under current and future climate conditions. A brief discussion of the recent changes in the socio-economic-environment drivers for bio-energy crops is also included. The long term research programmes for improving the breeding and agronomy of Miscanthus as a renewable energy source are now reaching commercial maturity and will hopefully aid in our attempts to de-carbonise energy producing systems and to mitigate the impacts of climate change.
Original languageEnglish
Article number13
Pages (from-to)45-57
JournalBiology and Environment
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 30 May 2015


  • Miscanthus
  • modelling
  • biomass


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