Switchgrass Biomass and Nitrogen Yield with Over-Seeded Cool-season Forages in the Southern Great Plains
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In dry climates with long, hot summers and freezing winters, such as that of the southern Great Plains of North America, switchgrass (Panicum virgatum L.) has proven potential as a cellulosic bioenergy feedstock. This trial looked at dry matter (DM) and N yield dynamics of switchgrass overseeded with cool-season legumes and rye (Secale cereale L.), compared to switchgrass fertilized with 0, 56 and 112 kg N ha-1 yr-1 at an infertile and a fertile location. Optimal N fertilizer rate on switchgrass was 56 kg N ha-1 at the infertile location. Legume yield was greater in the first season after planting, compared to subsequent years where annual legumes were allowed to reseed and alfalfa (Medicago sativa L.) was allowed to grow. This suggests that the reseeding model for annual legumes will not work in switchgrass swards grown for biomass unless soil seed banks are built up for more than one year, and that overseeding with alfalfa may have to be repeated in subsequent years to build up plant populations. Overseeding rye and legumes generally did not suppress or enhance switchgrass biomass production compared to unfertilized switchgrass. However, cumulative spring and fall biomass yields were generally greater due to winter and spring legume production, which could be beneficial for grazing or soil conservation systems, but not necessarily for once-yearly late autumn harvest biofuel production systems. 2012 Springer Science+Business Media, LLC.