Energy crop company releases management guides

By Luke Geiver | October 14, 2010

Ceres Inc., an energy crop developer, has published crop management guides for switchgrass and high-biomass sorghum. The guides provide information to both growers and bioenergy companies on current recommendations on the establishment, management and harvest of the crops. “The recommendations in the guide, reflect results from both an academic setting as well as real-world situations,” according to Gary Koppenjan of Blade Energy Crops, a brand of Ceres. Blade’s switchgrass recommendations were taken in part from the Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation and South Dakota State University. The high-biomass sorghum recommendations stem in part from the Texas AgriLife program at Texas A&M University. 

“Ceres has to our knowledge the largest network of energy crop trials, which includes internal trials and cooperative trials with universities and institutions as well as customers,” Koppenjan said. The recently released guides are the second edition issues and the new versions have several updates. “We have refined adaptation regions, planting times and depths and included findings from our trialing network,” according to the guide. 

The new guides show how energy crop management is evolving. In the past, switchgrass was commonly planted at shallow depths, but the new guides recommend planting switchgrass at a deeper depth to improve seeding establishment and seeding vigor. As Blade works with growers, they have also found elements that improve customer success. Because the learning curve for new customers is often steep due to the unfamiliar nature of a crop such as switchgrass or high-biomass sorghum, “our customers have had the greatest success when there’s involvement early on among the seed supplier, grower and bioenergy company,” Koppenjan said. “In our role as a seed supplier we often play a project planning role, and have found that grower meetings are the best way to kick-off a feedstock supply project.” He added that these meetings not only allow you to share specific technical information but also set expectations among the project participants. “In most cases,” he said, “these are groups that have not worked closely with each other before.” 

Ceres has worked with a number of projects funded by the government that include work with Amyris and UOP, a Honeywell company. In the future, Ceres plans to publish management guides for all of its energy crops. 

For a copy of either management guides, visit: