Effect of Harvest Dates on Biomass Accumulation and Composition in Bioenergy Sorghum
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Sorghum (Sorghum bicolor) has the potential to be used as a cellulosic feedstock for ethanol production due to its diversity and wide adaptation to many different climates. With a wide range of diversity, this crop could be tailored specifically for use as a feedstock for ethanol production. Other factors such as water use efficiency, drought tolerance, yield potential, composition, and established production systems also make sorghum a logical choice as a feedstock for bioenergy production. The objectives of this study were to better understand the biomass potential of different types of sorghum that may be used for energy production, and determine the composition of these sorghums over the season to better understand biomass yield and composition over time. Six commercial sorghum cultivars or hybrids that represent sorghum types from grain to energy were evaluated near College Station, Texas during the 2008 and 2009 cropping years. An optimal harvest window (defined by maximum yield) was established for all genotypes, and significant variation was seen among the genotypes for fresh and dry biomass production. The later maturity genotypes, including the photo-period sensitive and modified photo-period sensitive type sorghums, produced the highest yields (up to 24 dry Mg/ha). Compositional analysis using near infrared reflectance spectroscopy (NIR) for lignin, hemicellulose, and cellulose was performed on a dry matter basis for the optimal harvest window for each genotype. Significant differences were seen in 2009 between the genotypes for lignin, hemicellulose, cellulose, ash and protein; with the earlier genotypes having higher percentage of lignin, and the later genotypes having lower percentages of lignin. Genotype x Environment interactions were also seen, and show the significance that rainfall can have. Based on this research, grain sorghum could be harvested first, followed by photo-period insensitive forage varieties, then moderately photo-period sensitive forage varieties followed by dedicated bioenergy sorghums (that are full photo-period sensitive), allowing for a more constant supply of feedstock to processing plants. Sweet sorghums would also allow the end user to obtain biomass when needed, however these types of sorghum may be much better suited to a different end application (i.e. crushing the stalks to obtain the juice).
Borden, Dustin Ross (2011). Effect of Harvest Dates on Biomass Accumulation and Composition in Bioenergy Sorghum. Master's thesis, Texas A&M University. Available electronically from