Towards Miscanthus combustion quality improvement: the role of flowering and senescence

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In commercially grown Miscanthus × giganteus, despite imposing a yield penalty, postwinter harvests improve quality criteria for thermal conversion and crop sustainability through remobilization of nutrients to the underground rhizome. We examined 16 Miscanthus genotypes with different flowering and senescence times for variation in N, P, K, moisture, ash, Cl and Si contents, hypothesizing that early flowering and senescence could result in improved biomass quality and/or enable an earlier harvest of biomass (in autumn at peak yield). Ideal crop characteristics at harvest are low N and P to reduce future fertilizer inputs, low K and Cl to reduce corrosion in boilers, low moisture to reduce spoilage and transportation costs, and low Si and ash to reduce slagging and consequent operational downtime. Stems and leaves were harvested during summer, autumn and then the following spring after overwinter ripening. In spring, stem contents of N were 30–60 mg kg −1, P were 203–1132 mg kg −1, K were 290–4098 mg kg −1, Cl were 10–23 mg kg −1 and moisture were 12–38%. Notably, late senescence resulted in increased N, P, K, Cl, moisture and ash contents, and should therefore be avoided for thermochemical conversion. Flowering and senescence led to overall improved combustion quality, where flowered genotypes tended towards lower P, K, Cl and moisture contents; marginally less, or similar, N, Si and ash contents; and a similar higher heating value, compared to those that had not flowered. Such genotypes could potentially be harvested in the autumn. However, one genotype that did not flower in our trial exhibited sufficiently low N and K content in autumn to meet the ENplus wood pellet standards for those traits, and some of the lowest P, moisture and ash contents in our trial, and is thus a target for future research and breeding.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)891-908
Number of pages18
JournalGCB Bioenergy
Issue number5
Early online date30 Sept 2016
Publication statusPublished - 01 May 2017


  • nutrient remobilisation
  • biomass combustion
  • Chemical composition
  • nutrient remobilization
  • bioenergy
  • chemical composition
  • sustainability


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