Feedstock Development programs

Feedstock Production/Agronomy Program

This program provides statistically sound information on yields, geographic variation, and agronomic requirements of sustainable lignocellulosic feedstocks and identifies agronomic procedures and feedstocks that will facilitate sustainable systems for the production of biofuels worldwide.

program Highlights

2014 Highlights

The Feedstock Production/Agronomy Program was productive in 2014. Eric Anderson completed his PhD in which he studied seeded Miscanthus x giganteus establishment and weed control and also prairie cordgrass and switchgrass weed control and salt tolerance. M.S. student Rob Miller finished his degree on the propagation and production of Chinese wingnut as a potential bioenergy crop. The program prepared review articles dealing with (1) the biology, characteristics and production of black locust and (2) feedstocks that are tolerant of a variety of abiotic stressors likely to be present on marginal lands or under future climate scenarios.

2013 Highlights

While the Feedstock Production/Agronomy Program is involved in many studies designed to provide sound information on yields, geographic adaptability, and agronomic requirements of sustainable lignocellulosic feedstocks, three studies completed in 2013 are of interest. Allen Parrish recently completed his M.S. degree and studied the effects of using nitrogen fertilizer to compensate for the negative effects of early harvesting of Miscanthus x giganteus. Parrish found that over time, yields of the grass dropped following August and October harvests, even when the plots were fertilized annually with as much as 254 kg N ha-1. In other research, M.S. student Rob Miller studied Chinese wingnut (Pterocarya stenoptera), a potential feedstock, seed and cutting propagation, coppicing, and wood composition. Miller determined that the tree could be propagated using cuttings or seed and does possess the ability to coppice but is not an ideal candidate for biomass production because it has cellulose levels that are more than 10 percent below those found in black locust, poplar, and willow. Finally, in his Miscanthus spp. seeding studies, PhD student Eric Anderson found that drilling or hydroseeding 40 Miscanthus spp. seeds per m2 with irrigation resulted in an acceptable stand and plant density.

2012 Highlights

The Feedstock Production/Agronomy Program’s goal is to determine where and how different feedstocks should optimally be produced and managed. Our program evaluates feedstocks for producing high biomass yields with minimal inputs in order to have the lowest environmental impacts. Most of research involves perennial crops in eastern U.S. temperate regions. We study and grow herbaceous grasses such as giant miscanthus (Miscanthus x giganteus), switchgrass (Panicum virgatum), and prairie cordgrass (Spartina pectinata), herbaceous broad-leaved plants (e.g. cup plant, Silphium perfoliatum) and woody crops (e.g. black locust, Robinia pseudoacacia).


Our agronomic research includes planting-density, fertility, harvest-timing, and weed-control studies. In 2012, two studies were of particular interest. First, we planted M. x giganteus to evaluate feedstock survival and productivity in marginal settings at a remediated limestone quarry in Central Illinois with infertile, rocky, poorly drained soils and at a Southern Illinois site with ground that has erodible slopes up to 18 percent. In both settings, perennial bioenergy crops may be more desirable than row crops due to the poor soils at the quarry site and the difficulty of annual planting and harvesting at the sloping site in Southern Illinois. Survival, growth and development, and yield data collection begins in 2013. The second study compares the productivity of giant Miscanthus, switchgrass, a mixed tallgrass prairie comprised of 28 species of Champaign County native plants, and an annual row crop rotation of maize-maize-soybeans in Urbana, IL. Crop performance in 2012 -- an extremely hot, dry growing season -- was of particular interest; switchgrass, giant Miscanthus, and the tallgrass prairie produced 93%, 91%, and 48%, respectively, of the average of 2010–2012 biomass yields, and maize produced 61% of the average of 2009, 2011, and 2012 yields.

2011 Highlights

Some researchers have reported that a mixed grassland had higher yields than a monoculture of, for example, Miscanthus x giganteus (Mxg). However, Voigt’s group found that mixed tall prairie grass yields averaged only 6.07 megagrams (Mg) per hectare, as compared to 10.96 Mg per hectare for Mxg and 9.42 Mg per hectare for switchgrass. In other work, preliminary results show that yields of Mxg biomass varied more across locations than switchgrass.

2010 Highlights

In 2010, five woody plant and three forb and/or grass trials were designed and planted at the EBI Energy Farm to determine these perennial plants’ feedstock potential.  Several forbs, including sawtooth sunflower, giant ironweed and late goldenrod, performed well in 2010. Voigt’s group is in the second year of managing side-by-side Miscanthus x giganteus and switchgrass trials in Illinois, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, New Jersey, Oklahoma, Ontario, South Dakota, and Wisconsin designed to determine the survival and annual growth and yields of the grasses in each location.  In September, they hosted the Energy Farm Field Day for more than 160 attendees.

2009 Highlights

The Voigt lab collected genetic/breeding material from the Arundo, Miscanthus, Panicum, and Saccharum genera; initiated sorghum, native grass, and forb feedstock studies; and conducted agronomic fertility, propagation, weed control, and eradication studies using several different feedstocks at the Energy Farm. The program surveyed more than 400 North American botanic gardens and arboreta to identify potential biomass feedstocks and develop collaborative research arrangements. To initiate the woody plant biomass, the program produced 1,600 poplar trees for Spring 2010 planting. Finally, the program developed long-term collaborative arrangements with researchers in nine states and established side-by-side Mxg and switchgrass plots in each state.



Published in 2014

Agronomic Factors in the Establishment of Tetraploid Seeded Miscanthus × giganteus, E. K. Anderson, D. K. Lee, D. J. Allen, and T. B. Voigt, Global Change Biology – Bioenergy, doi: 10.1111/gcbb.12192, June 7, 2014. 


Nitrogen Fertilization Does Significantly Increase Yields of Stands of Miscanthus × giganteus and Panicum virgatum in Multiyear Trials in Illinois, R. A. Arundale, F. G. Dohleman, T. B. Voigt, and S. P. Long, BioEnergy Research, V. 7, pp. 408-416, March 2014. 


Effect of Nitrogen Addition on Miscanthus × giganteus Yield, Nitrogen Losses, and Soil Organic Matter Across Five Sites, M. P. Davis, M. B. David, T. B. Voigt, and C.A. Mitchell, Global Change Biology – Bioenergy, doi: 10.1111/gcbb.12217, August 4, 2014. 


Effects of Drought on Corn Stover, CRP Mixed Grasses, and Miscanthus as bioenergy feedstocks, R. A. Emerson, R., A. Hoover, A. Ray, J. Lacey, M. Cortez, C. Payne, D. Karlen, S. Birrell, D. Laird, R. Kallenbach, J. Egenolf, M. Sousek, and T. Voigt. 2014. Biofuels, V. 5(3), pp. 275–291, 2014. 


Switchgrass and Giant Miscanthus Agronomy, D. K. Lee, A. Parrish, and T. B. Voigt, book chapter, Y. Shastri, et al. (eds.), Engineering and Science of Biomass Feedstock Production and Provision, Springer Science+Business Media, New York, pp. 37-60, January 18, 2014. 


Are the Environmental Benefits of Miscanthus × giganteus Suggested by Early Studies of This Crop Supported by the Broader and Longer-Term Contemporary Studies?, T. B. Voigt, Global Change Biology – Bioenergy, doi: 10.1111/gcbb.12150, January 18, 2014. 


Selecting Stress Tolerant Feedstocks for Sustainable Bioenergy Production on Marginal Land, L.D. Quinn, K. C. Straker, J. Guo, S. Kim, S. Thapa, G. Kling, D. K. Lee, and T. B. Voigt, Bioenergy Research, doi:10.1007/s12155-014-9557-y, February 2015. 


Determining Effects of Sodicity and Salinity on Switchgrass and Prairie Cordgrass Germination and Plant Growth, E. K. Anderson, T.B. Voigt, S. Kim, and D. K. Lee, February 2015. 


Industrial Crops and Products 64, pp. 79-87, doi: 10.1016/j.indcrop.2014.11.016, Nov. 29, 2014.

Published in 2013

Nitrogen Fertility and Harvest Management of Switchgrass for Sustainable Bioenergy Feedstock Production in IllinoisEric K. Anderson, Allen S. Parrish, Thomas B. Voigt, Vance N. Owens, Chang-Ho Hong, D.K. Lee, Industrial Crop and Products 48:8,  pp. 19-27, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.indcrop.2013.03.029, July 2013.


Yields of Miscanthus x giganteus and Panicum virgatum Decline with Stand Age in the Midwestern USA (2013), R. A. Arundale, F. G. Dohleman, E. A. Heaton, J. M. McGrath, T. B. Voigt, S. P. Long, Global Change Biology – Bioenergy, 6, pp. 1-13, doi: 10.1111/gcbb.12077.


Nitrogen Fertilization Does Significantly Increase Yields of Stands of Miscanthus giganteus and Panicum virgatum in Multiyear Trials in Illinois, R. A. Arundale, F. G. Dohleman, T. B. Voigt, S. P. Long, BioEnergy Research, 7(1), pp. 408-416, doi:10.1007/s12155-013-9385-5.


Switchgrass, Big Bluestem, and Indiangrass Monocultures and Their Two- and Three-Way Mixtures for Bioenergy in the Northern Great Plains (2013), C. O. Hong, V. N. Owens, D. K. Lee, A. Boe, Bioenergy Research 6, pp. 229-239.


Ecophysiological Screening of Tree Species for Biomass Production: Trade-Off between Production and Water Use, Dan Wang, David Lebauer, Gary Kling, Thomas Voigt, Michael C. Dietze, Ecosphere, 4(11), pp. 138,  doi: 10.1890/ES13-00156.1, November 20, 2013. 

Published in 2012

Forage and Energy Sorghum Response to Nitrogen Fertilization in Central and Southern Illinois, Matt Maughan, Thomas Voigt, Allen Parish, German Bollero, William Rooney, D. K. Lee, Agronomy Journal, 104(4), pp. 1032-1040, June 2012.


Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Nitrate Leaching, and Biomass Yields from Production of Miscanthus x giganteus in Illinois, USA, Gevan Behnke, Mark David, Thomas Voigt, BioEnergy Research, doi: 10.1007/s12155-012-9191-5, April 5, 2012.


Detection of Switchgrass Mosaic Virus in Miscanthus and Other Grasses, Bright Agindotan, N. Okanu, Adebosola Oladeinde, Thomas Voigt, Stephen Long, Michael Gray, Carl Bradley, Canadian Journal of Plant Pathology, doi: 10.1080/07060661.2012.752763.


Perennial Herbaceous Crops with Potential for Biofuel Production in the Temperate Regions of the USA, Thomas Voigt, DoKyoung Lee, Gary Kling, CAB Reviews: Perspectives in Agriculture, Veterinary Science, Nutrition and Natural Resources 7(15), pp. 1-13.


Miscanthus x giganteus Productivity: The effects of Management in Different Environments, Matt Maughan, German Bollero, DoKyoung Lee, Robert Darmody, Stacy Bonos, Laura Cortese, James Murphy, Roch Gaussoin, Matt Sousek, David Williams, Linda Williams, Fernando Miguez, Thomas Voigt, Global Change Biology – Bioenergy 4(3), pp. 253–65.


Salinity Effects on Germination and Plant Growth of ‘Red River’ Prairie Cordgrass and ‘Cave-In-Rock’ Switchgrass, SuMin Kim, A. Lane Rayburn, Thomas Voigt, Allen Parrish, DoKyoung Lee, Bioenergy Research 5(1), pp. 225-35.

Published in 2011

Miscanthus x giganteus Productivity: the Effects of Management in Different Environments, Matt Maughan, German Bollero, D. K. Lee, Robert Darmody, Stacy Bonos, Laura Cortese, James Murphy, Roch Gaussoin, Matthew Sousek, David Williams, Linda Williams, Fernando Miguez, Thomas Voigt, Global Change Biology-Bioenergy, doi: 10.1111/j.1757-1707.2011.01144.x, December 5, 2011.


Miscanthus x giganteus Response to Tillage and Glyphosate, Eric Anderson, Thomas Voigt, German Bollero, Aaron Hager, Weed Technology, 25(3), pp. 356-362, doi: 10.1614/WT-D-10-00097.1, July 2011.


Evaluating Silicon Concentrations in Biofuel Feedstock Crops Miscanthus and Switchgrass, Krishna Woli, Mark David, Jenwei Tsai, Tom Voigt, Robert Darmody, Corey Mitchell, Biomass and Bioenergy, doi:10.1016/j.biombioe.2011.03.007, April 3, 2011.


Rotating a Field of Mature Miscanthus x giganteus to Glyphosate-Resistant Crops, Eric Anderson, Thomas Voigt, German Bollero, Aaron Hager, Agronomy Journal, 103(5), pp. 1383-1388, doi: 10.2134/agronj2011.0091, March 25, 2011.


Growth and Agronomy of Miscanthus x giganteus for Biomass Production, Eric Anderson, Rebecca Arundale, Matthew Maughan, Adebosola Oladeinde, Andrew Wycislo, Thomas Voigt, Biofuels 2(2), pp. 167-183, March 2011.

Published in 2010

Miscanthus x giganteus Response to Preemergence and Postemergence Herbicides, Erik Anderson, Thomas Voigt, German Bollero, Aaron Hager, Weed Technology, 24(4), pp. 453-460, October-December 2010.



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