Species selection determines carbon allocation and turnover in Miscanthus crops: Implications for biomass production and C sequestration

M. J.I. Briones*, A. Massey, D. M.O. Elias, J. P. McCalmont, K. Farrar, I. Donnison, N. P. McNamara

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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Growing Miscanthus species and hybrids has received strong scientific and commercial support, with the majority of the carbon (C) modelling predictions having focused on the high-yield, sterile and noninvasive hybrid Miscanthus × giganteus. However, the potential of other species with contrasting phenotypic and physiological traits has been seldom explored. To better understand the mechanisms underlying C allocation dynamics in these bioenergy crops, we pulse-labelled (13CO2) intact plant-soil systems of Miscanthus × giganteus (GIG), Miscanthus sinensis (SIN) and Miscanthus lutarioriparius (LUT) and regularly analysed soil respiration, leaves, stems, rhizomes, roots and soils for up to 190 days until leaf senescence. A rapid isotopic enrichment of all three species was observed after 4 h, with the amount of 13C fixed into plant biomass being inversely related to their respective standing biomass prior to pulse-labelling (i.e., GIG < SIN < LUT). However, both GIG and LUT allocated more photoassimilates in the aboveground biomass (leaves+stems = 78 % and 74 %, respectively) than SIN, which transferred 30% of fixed 13C in its belowground biomass (rhizomes+roots). Although less fixed 13C was recovered from the soils (<1 %), both rhizospheric and bulk soils were signficantly more enriched under SIN and LUT than under GIG. Importantly, the soils under SIN emitted less CO2, which suggests it could be the best choice for reaching C neutrality. These results from this unique large-scale study indicate that careful species selection may hold the success for reaching net GHG mitigation.

Original languageEnglish
Article number164003
Number of pages13
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Early online date15 May 2023
Publication statusPublished - 20 Aug 2023


  • CO pulse labelling
  • Carbon storage
  • Miscanthus lutarioriparius
  • Miscanthus sinensis
  • Miscanthus × giganteus
  • Soil respiration
  • Soil
  • Biomass
  • Crops, Agricultural
  • Carbon
  • Carbon Dioxide
  • Poaceae/physiology


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