Harvest Date Effects on Biomass Yield, Moisture Content, Mineral Concentration, and Mineral Export in Switchgrass and Native Polycultures Managed for Bioenergy

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19 Scopus citations


Various local factors influence the decision of when to harvest grassland biomass for renewable energy including climate, plant composition, and phenological stage. However, research on biomass yield and quality related to a wide range of harvest timing from multiple environments and years is lacking. Our objective was to determine the effect of harvest timing on yield, moisture, and mineral concentration of switchgrass (Panicum virgatum L.) and native polyculture biomass. Biomass was harvested on 56 unique days ranging from late summer (2 September) to late spring (20 May) spanning 3 years (2009 to 2011) and seven sites in Minnesota, USA. Biomass yield varied considerably by location and year (range = 0.7–11.7 Mg ha−1) and was lowest during the winter. On average, there was no difference in biomass yield harvested in early fall compared to late spring. Biomass moisture content was lowest in late spring, averaging 156 g kg−1 across all locations and years when harvested after 1 April. Biomass N concentration did not change across harvest dates; however, P and K concentrations declined dramatically from late summer to late spring. Considering the economic costs of replacing exported minerals and changes in revenues from biomass yield through time, biomass harvest should be conducted in late summer–early fall or late spring and avoided in winter. However, biomass managed for gasification should be harvested in spring to reduce concentrations of minerals that lead to slagging and fouling. Changes in biomass yield and quality through time were similar for switchgrass and native polyculture biomass. These biomass harvest recommendations are made from data spanning multiple years and locations and should be applicable to various growing conditions across the Upper Midwest.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)740-749
Number of pages10
JournalBioenergy Research
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 1 2015

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was funded in part by the Xcel Energy Renewable Development Fund, the Institute for Renewable Energy and the Environment, and the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. Special thanks to Joshua Larson for assistance with field operations and to multiple field technicians for their assistance with data collection.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2014, Springer Science+Business Media New York.


  • Bioenergy
  • Biomass quality
  • Harvest date
  • Native polyculture
  • Switchgrass


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