Blade Energy Crops releases switchgrass guide

By Anna Austin
Web exclusive posted Feb. 12, 2009, at 4:58 p.m. CST

Blade Energy Crops, a seed brand of Ceres Inc., has released a 20-page guide, titled "Planting and Managing Switchgrass as a Dedicated Energy crop 2009," which summarizes the most recent data and experiences from the company's energy crop trialing network.

The guide details switchgrass variety selection and planting considerations; fertility, pest and weed management in post-established years; timing, frequency and methods of harvesting; as well as growing incentives such as the Biomass Crop Assistance Program which was created under the Food, Conservation and Energy Act of 2008 to promote cultivating perennial bioenergy crops that are not primarily grown for food or animal feed.

According to Blade Energy Crops, hardiness zone and latitude are important considerations when selecting a plant variety, which fall into roughly three ranges in the U.S.-southern, mid, and northern. "As a rule of thumb, a variety should not be moved more than 300 miles, or one hardiness zone, north of its point of origin," the guide stated. "Two types of switchgrass are available for planting: lowland and upland."

When determining switchgrass planting methods such as equipment, rate, depth and row spacing considerations the guide recommended planting on smooth, weed-free surfaces when drilling or broadcasting switchgrass. Broadcast seeding refers to techniques where the seed is spread uniformly across the soil; drilling involves planting rows using either conventional or no-till drills.

The guide also details planting time, weed control, and fertilization information. "Planting and Managing Switchgrass as a Dedicated Energy crop 2009" is available online.