Switchgrass is a warm-season perennial grass native to North America. The plant can reach heights up to 10 feet with an extensive root system. Once established, switchgrass well-managed for biomass should have a productive life of 10-20 years. Within the stand, switchgrass is an extremely strong competitor. However, it is not considered an invasive plant. Switchgrass adapts well to a variety of soil and climatic conditions. It is most productive on moderately well to well-drained soils of medium fertility and a soil pH at 5.0 or above. The high cellulosic content of switchgrass makes it a favorable feedstock for ethanol production. It is anticipated that switchgrass can yield sufficient biomass to produce approximately 500 gallons of ethanol per acre. While the Tennessee Biofuels Initiative includes a demonstration plant to make ethanol from switchgrass, the market for switchgrass as an energy crop remains limited. Producers will likely need to be located within 30 to 50 miles of a cellulosic ethanol plant. Producing switchgrass for energy generally occurs under some form of contractual arrangement with the end-user. To reap potential benefits from using switchgrass for cellulosic ethanol production, the system of production must be profitable for farmers and energy producers, as well as cost effective for consumers.
"SP701-A-Growing and Harvesting Switchgrass for Ethanol Production in Tennessee," The University of Tennessee Agricultural Extension Service, Clark D. Garland, Gary E. Bates, Christopher D. Clark, Deloras A. Dalton, Delton C. Gerloff, John J. Goddard, Ken J. Goddard, Laura Howard, Patrick D. Keyser, Melvin A. Newman, David R. Perrin, Lawrence E. Steckel, Finis Stribling, Donald D. Tyler, Michael D. Wilcox, and James B. Wills Jr.,
SP701A-5M-5/08 (Rep) R12-4110-070-019-08 08-0120, http://trace.tennessee.edu/utk_agexbiof/6