Harvest time optimisation for combustion quality of different miscanthus genotypes across Europe

Yasir Iqbal, Andreas Kiesel, Moritz Wagner, Christopher Nunn, Olena Kalinina, Astley Francis St John Hastings, John C. Clifton-Brown, Iris Lewandowski

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Delayed harvest can improve the quality of miscanthus biomass for combustion and enhance the long-term sustainability of the crop, despite accompanying yield losses. The aim of this study is to identify the optimal harvesting time, which can deliver improved biomass quality for combustion of novel miscanthus genotypes at various sites across Europe, without high yield losses and without compromising their environmental performance. The relevant field trials were established as part of the European project OPTIMISC with 15 genotypes at six sites across Europe. For this study, the five highest yielding genotypes from each germplasm group and three sites with contrasting climatic conditions (Stuttgart/Germany, Adana/Turkey and Moscow/Russia) were selected for assessment. The biomass samples were collected between August and March (depending on site) and subjected to mineral and ash content analysis. At Stuttgart, the delay in harvesting time led to a significant variation in combustion quality characteristics, such as N content (0.64-0.21%), ash content (5.15-2.60%) and ash sintering index (1.30-0.20). At Adana, the delay in harvesting time decreased the N content from 0.62 to 0.23%, ash content from 10.63 to 3.84% and sintering index from 0.54 to 0.07. At Moscow, the impact of delay in harvesting was not significant, except for N, Mg and ash sintering index. Overall, a delay in harvesting time improved the combustion quality characteristics of each genotype, but at the expense of yield. Yield losses of up to 49% in Stuttgart and Adana and 21% for Moscow were recorded, with variations between genotypes and sites. The harvesting time also affected nutrient offtake, which in turn influences the long-term environmental performance of the crop. The highest N, P and K offtakes were recorded at Stuttgart for each harvesting time except for final harvest (March), where Moscow had the highest N offtake. This study describes the three criteria (biomass quality, yield losses, nutrient offtake) for determining the ideal harvesting time, which gives the best compromise between dry matter yields and biomass quality characteristics without negatively affecting the environmental performance of the crop.
Original languageEnglish
Article number727
JournalFrontiers in plant science
Early online date19 Apr 2017
Publication statusPublished - 10 May 2017


  • miscanthus
  • harvesting time
  • genotype
  • combustion quality
  • yield loss
  • nutrient offtake


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