Phenotypic variation in senescence in Miscanthus: Towards optimising biomass quality and quantity

Paul Russell Robson, Michal Mos, John Cedric Clifton-Brown, Iain Simon Donnison

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Senescence impacts the harvestable biomass yield and quality in Miscanthus. Very early autumn senescence shortens the canopy duration reducing yield potential. When senescence is too late or slow, the crop does not ripen sufficiently before harvest, resulting in high moisture and nutrient offtakes that reduce biomass quality. In this study, variation in senescence was monitored over 3 years in a trial of 244 Miscanthus genotypes planted in four replicate blocks. The experiment comprised 199 genotypes of Miscanthus sinensis, 36 genotypes of Miscanthus sacchariflorus, and 9 genotypes of Miscanthus × giganteus. On average, M. sinensis genotypes remained greener for longer than M. sacchariflorus genotypes. There was a strong correlation between senescence and moisture content at harvest in 2007 and 2008 (R 2 = 0.59, R 2 = 0.57, respectively; n = 244). The senescence rate of M. × giganteus, an interspecific hybrid between M. sinensis and M. sacchariflorus, was found to lie between the two parental species groups. Environmental signals likely to be involved in the timing and rate of senescence, such as variation in photoperiod and thermal time that occurred through the growing season were investigated. Interactions between individual environmental signals and senescence were difficult to separate. The majority of plants senesced consistently between replicate blocks, and rank order was mostly consistent across all years suggesting strong genotypic control of senescence. This study provides valuable information for the future optimisation of Miscanthus, and potentially other energy grasses, where new varieties are needed to maximise net energy yields and crop quality for different end uses in different global regions.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)95-105
Number of pages11
JournalBioenergy Research
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 01 Mar 2011


  • Bioenergy
  • Feedstock matching
  • Miscanthus
  • Senescence
  • Composition


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