Viaspace Giant King Grass shows high yield at California site

By Viaspace Inc. | September 11, 2014

Viaspace Inc. has announced that the first harvest of Giant King Grass in the Imperial Valley of California, was completed on Sept. 2.

At the University of California site in Holtville, California, two planting methods were compared. One is to plant single nodes that each grow into individual plants, and the other method is to plant whole Giant King Grass stalks continuously end to end similar to the way that sugarcane is planted. The first method results in individual plants that each have some space around them. The whole stalk method results in a dense linear row of plants each spaced about 6 inches apart.

Two different harvesting times are also being tested. The first is to harvest at about 15 – 18 feet tall at about six months old for bioenergy applications such as direct combustion in a power plant, energy pellets or cellulosic biofuels. The second is to harvest at about 6 – 8 feet tall about every two months for animal feed and to produce biogas for anaerobic digestion. This harvest was at 8 feet tall. The Giant King Grass was planted at the top of rows and irrigation was provided by flooding the inter-spacing furrows.

Five separate representative sections of each planting type (replicates) were harvested by hand and fully characterized. Samples were also sent for forage analysis. This is the first harvest, and subsequent harvests are expected to be more frequent and produce higher yields.

From visual observation and measurements, the whole stalk planting initially showed earlier germination and the plant height was higher. The measured yield of the first harvest of whole stalk planting was 26 wet tons per acre. The plants were approximately 8 feet tall to tip of leaf.

From observations and measurements, the individual plants had a significant number of skips where the plants failed to germinate. In the future, any skips will be filled in by transplants or replanting. Nevertheless, the canopy was closed quickly and the individual plants were a bit taller and had thicker stalks. The measured yield of the first harvest of individual plants was 36 wet tons per acre.

Both yields are excellent for the first harvest. Both will be harvested again in about two months. It is expected that there will be 4 to 5 harvests per year in the Imperial Valley.

From the preliminary data, it appears that the individual plants produce 38% higher yield than planting whole stalks. This conclusion needs to be verified by repeated harvests, but this is a significant finding. Both were planted on the same time and irrigated and fertilized identically.

After the measurements, the remaining Giant King Grass was cut by a swather and removed from the field to allow the regrowth to begin.

Viaspace has a research collaboration with the University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources Division. UCANR is the division of the University of California that operates the Cooperative Extension Program and nine Research and Extension Centers that link California farmers and ranchers to agricultural and veterinary researchers at UC campuses.  Viaspace is collaborating with the 255 acre Desert Research and Extension Center, located in Holtville, California.

Viasapce CEO Carl Kukkonen, reported, "It was 108 degrees when I arrived in Holtville last Monday evening at 6 p.m. I am pleased that Giant King Grass grows well in this extremely hot and dry environment. Giant King Grass is planted in the worst soil at the University of California site, and still the results are good. This demonstrates that marginal land can be used for Giant King Grass. The high yields were as anticipated, and I expect that the results from the second harvest will even be better. Giant King Grass will be an excellent commercial animal feed crop in the Imperial Valley of California. We see similar results -- even a little better-- in Nicaragua."

Viaspace is growing Giant King Grass in 11 locations in 8 countries on 4 continents, and it has been extensively tested by third party laboratories for electricity production, biogas, biofuel, pellet and animal feed applications.