Effects of Biosolids Application and Harvest Frequency on Switchgrass Yield, Feedstock Quality, and Theoretical Ethanol Yield

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Virginia Tech

Switchgrass (Panicum virgatum L.) is a promising bioenergy crop for biofuel production. However, the effects of biosolids application on biomass yield, nitrogen (N) concentration, feedstock quality and theoretical ethanol yield (TEY) are rarely reported in the literature. The objectives of this research were: 1) to compare the effects of biosolids application on biomass yield, N concentration, feedstock quality and TEY, and 2) to compare the effects of harvest frequency on biomass yield, N concentration, feedstock quality and TEY. This experiment began in 2010 and tested four plant available N (PAN) rates of biosolids (0, 153, 306, 459 kg ha-1), one urea rate (180 kg ha-1), and two harvest frequencies (cut once in November or cut in July and November) on a Davidson soil at Orange, VA. Biosolids and urea applications increased biomass yield and TEY across years relative to control, but had no effects on measures of feedstock quality. Inconsistent biomass yield responses to harvest frequency were observed during three years. Cutting once per year consistently increased biomass lignin, cellulose, and hemicellulose concentrations, theoretical ethanol potential (TEP), and reduced N and ash concentrations compared to two cuts. Across years one cut increased TEY by 11% over the two cuts. The results demonstrate that biosolids can be applied as an N source to increase biomass yield and TEY. Two cuts increased biomass yield but reduced TEP, and had inconsistent effects on TEY.

switchgrass, biosolids, harvest frequency, yield, Nitrogen, biofuel quality