291-1 Energycane Feedstock Development in Louisiana.
Poster Number 108
Global interest in developing renewable sources of energy and bioproducts has directed attention towards plant biomass as potential feedstocks. This paper reports on work currently underway to develop energycane varieties as feedstock for the emerging bioenergy and bioproducts industry. The term energycane loosely describes derivatives of sugarcane bred specifically as an energy crop. They include crosses between cultivated sugarcane and its wild relative Saccharum spontaneum or with the allied species, Miscanthus. The crosses maximize traits such as high biomass yield, tolerance to biotic (disease and insect pests) and abiotic (cold and drought) stresses, and ratooning ability. One goal of this project is to provide a challenging environment for selection, with a view of developing varieties for marginal lands that require minimal inputs. In 2012, approximately 1000 energycane clones planted at Houma (29° 35′ 15″ N), in southern Louisiana were replanted at Winnsboro, in northern Louisiana (32° 9′ 48″ N). The Winnsboro location is outside of the traditional sugarcane belt and experiences lower average temperatures and rainfall and atypical weather patterns than what is obtained in southern Louisiana. Whereas crops are traditionally grown under irrigation in Winnsboro, no irrigation or fertilizers were applied to the energycane crop. The 1,000 clones were allowed to overwinter and about 200 clones were selected, based on visual appraisal for biomass yield, and replanted in 2013. These clones were also analyzed for biomass quality traits such as cellulose, hemicellulose and lignin along with a subset of 35 clones that were sampled earlier and later in the season. Following the severe winters in 2012 and 2013 the clones were rated in the ratoon crops for their regrowth potential. The data collected so far are being used to select clones combining high biomass yield and quality for evaluation in multi-location trials across the southeastern United States.