Modelled spatial assessment of biomass productivity and technical potential of Miscanthus× giganteus, Panicum virgatum L. and Jatropha on marginal land in China

Bingquan Zhang*, Astley Hastings, John Cedric Clifton-Brown, Dong Jiang, André P.C. Faaij

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


This article identifies marginal land technically available for the production of energy crops in China, compares three models of yield prediction for Miscanthus × giganteus, Panicum virgatum L. (switchgrass) and Jatropha, and estimates their spatially‐specific yields and technical potential for 2017. Geographic Information System (GIS) analysis of land use maps estimated that 185 Mha of marginal land was technically available for energy crops in China without using areas currently used for food production. Modelled yields were projected for Miscanthus × giganteus, a GIS‐based Environmental Policy Integrated Climate model for switchgrass and Global Agro‐Ecological Zone model for Jatropha. GIS analysis and MiscanFor estimated more than 120 Mha marginal land was technically available for Miscanthus with a total potential of 1761 dry weight metric million tonne (DW Mt)/yr. A total of 284 DW Mt/yr of switchgrass could be obtained from 30 Mha marginal land, with an average yield of 9.5 DW t ha‐1 yr‐1. More than 35 Mha marginal land was technically available for Jatropha, delivering 9.7 Mt yr‐1 of Jatropha seed. The total technical potential from available marginal land was calculated as 31.7 EJ yr‐1 for Miscanthus, 5.1 EJ yr‐1 for switchgrass, and 0.13 EJ yr‐1 for Jatropha. A total technical bioenergy potential of 34.4 EJ yr‐1 was calculated by identifying best suited crop for each 1km2 grid cell based on the highest energy value among the three crops. The results indicate the technical potential per hectare of Jatropha is unable to compete with that of the other two crops in each grid cell. This modelling study provides planners with spatial overviews that demonstrate the potential of these crops and where biomass production could be potentially distributed in China which needs field trials to test model assumptions and build experience necessary to translate into practicality.
Original languageEnglish
JournalGlobal Change Biology. Bioenergy
Early online date20 Jan 2020
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 20 Jan 2020



  • biomass
  • energy crop
  • Jatropha
  • marginal land
  • Miscanthus × giganteus
  • switchgrass
  • technical potential
  • yield modelling

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