Biomass Production of Arundo Donax: A Country Specific Overview
With around 50-80 dry tonnes of biomass yield per hectare every year, Arundo donax (giant reed) is way ahead of its competitors. Of course, this yield depends on climate and applied agricultural technology. In this article below, the studies carried out concerning the biomass yield and economics of Arundo donax are presented.
Biomass production in the Mediterranean: Italy, Spain and Sicily
Biomass production on unfavourable areas is a crucial aspect of the economics of giant reed. A comprehensive research focusing on the sustainability features of energy crops also synthesised the results of several EU-funded projects and stressed that Arundo donax is one of the most suitable feedstocks to produce biomass on marginal agricultural areas of Europe.
Chiaramonti et al. (2000) found that sorghum and Arundo donax proved to have the best growth rate on coastal and arid area of the Mediterranean region. Pulighe et al. (2016) emphasised the biomass production potential of various perennial species (including giant reed) on a marginal and contaminated regions of Italy. According to their results, giant reed had outstanding performances in terms of yield, irrigation needs, and water use efficiency and fertilizer use even under less favourable agronomic circumstances.
Miscanthus, Arundo donax and Switchgrass were in the focus of the study of Rodias et al. (2017). A common framework, including all the in-field and transport operations, was used in order to gain accurate results for all the crops. These results showed that even though giant reed required the highest energy input, the energy balance (in a 10 years long period) was also the highest for Arundo donax: 4654.4 GJ/hectare. This is more than double of the results of Switchgrass (1760.3 GJ/ha) and significantly higher than Miscanthus (3025.3 GJ/ha). Consequently, from the energetic balance point of view giant reed is the most advantageous crop from the above mentioned species.
Using pre-treated sewage effluent for irrigation was in the focus of the study of Tzanakakis, et al. (2012). For three years, they had been studying and comparing giant reed with other non-grass biomass candidates (namely: Acacia cyanophylla, Eucalyptus camaldulensis and Populus nigra). Arundo donax had the second highest energy production cost (2.34 EUR/GJ) but the highest nutrient use efficiency for nitrogen and phosphorus, thus making giant reed a candidate to converse waste water into bioenergy production.
Zema et al. (2012) implemented a similar approach investigating the effects of using sewages of an urban wastewater depuration plant for biomass production with three energy crops (Typha latifolia, Arundo donax and Phragmites australis). After the two-year long field study they found increased biomass yield and the highest energy yield per unit for Arundo donax. Furthermore, according to the results of Seshadri et al. (2016) among the potential landfill biomass plants (sunflower, sugarcane, giant reed, willow, switch and miscanthus) giant reed was unquestionably the most outstanding kind with a biomass yield of 70.8 tons/hectare.