Herbaceous perennial biomass production on frequently saturated marginal soils: Influence on N2O emissions and shallow groundwater

Benjamin M. Rau, Paul R. Adler, Curtis J. Dell, Debasish Saha, Armen R. Kemanian

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Warm season perennial grasses grown for biomass have been suggested as alternative cropping systems on marginal soils to increase farm profit, reduce nitrous oxide (N2O) emissions, and improve water quality. The objectives of this study were to determine: 1) how warm season perennial grasses, switchgrass (Panicum virgatum) and Miscanthus (Miscanthus x giganteus), compare to cool season grasses as streamside buffers on poorly drained marginal soils 2) if inorganic or organic nutrient additions improve biomass yield and affect environmental outcomes? 3) which soil variables influence N2O emissions in situ? We measured soil N2O emissions, soil solution nitrate (NO3), ammonium (NH4+), O2, moisture, and temperature, along with shallow groundwater NH4+, NO3, and ortho-phosphate during two growing seasons (2012–2013). N2O emissions were similar across unfertilized warm season grasses and cool season grasses. However, when switchgrass was fertilized with ammonium sulfate or broiler manure, N2O emissions increased significantly. N2O emissions were weakly correlated with soil solution NO3 concentrations and water filled pore space. Shallow groundwater N was elevated under switchgrass fertilized with ammonium sulfate, broiler manure, and when grown with the legume (Desmodium canadense) when compared to unfertilized switchgrass, Miscanthus, and cool season grasses. In 2013 dry aboveground biomass production did not differ among switchgrass treatments which averaged 10 Mg ha. Biomass production was significantly higher for Miscanthus (18.5 Mg ha). The results indicate that unfertilized switchgrass and Miscanthus are as effective as cool season grasses at mitigating N2O emissions and improving water quality, and that Miscanthus has potential production advantages over switchgrass grown on frequently saturated soils.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)90-98
Number of pages9
JournalBiomass and Bioenergy
StatePublished - Mar 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Forestry
  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • Agronomy and Crop Science
  • Waste Management and Disposal


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