Assessing biofuel grasses for invasiveness

Miscanthus Trial - geograph.org.uk - 338745

Photo: David Brinicombe [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.

Several perennial grass species are under consideration for large-scale bioenergy production in Ontario and elsewhere, including Miscanthus x giganteus, Miscanthus sinensis, Panicum virgatum, and Phalaris arundinacea.  Introduction of these species may have deleterious effects on native biodiversity, if viable pollen, seeds, or vegetative fragments are allowed to escape from production fields.  Therefore, it is important to investigate the potential invasiveness and community impacts of these species prior to introducing them on large scales for bioenergy production. First, we will compile a database of known invasive populations in Ontario. These populations will be visited and compared with uninvaded surrounding vegetation to quantify local impacts to native seedbank biodiversity.  Second, we will perform a weed risk assessment (WRA) for the perennial bioenergy grasses being considered for Ontario.  In addition, we will conduct a controlled experiment in an old-field remnant in which we will test the effects of biofuel species identity and planting density on native plant abundance and diversity.  Finally, we will monitor the field margins of the bioenergy plots to quantify the rate of vegetative spread for M. sinensis, M. x giganteus and M. sacchariflorus.  These activities will advance our understanding of the potential invasiveness, impacts, and sustainability of bioenergy grasses, and will help guide selective breeding programs and bioenergy policy for Ontario. 


PIs: Lauren Quinn (University of Illinois), Heather Hager and Jonathan Newman


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