Improving the Sustainability of Switchgrass Establishment Through the Development of Cultivars with Improved Germination

Project Overview

Project Type: Graduate Student
Funds awarded in 2010: $15,000.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2012
Grant Recipient: Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey
Region: Northeast
State: New Jersey
Graduate Student:
Faculty Advisor:
Dr. Stacy Bonos
Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey

Annual Reports


  • Additional Plants: native plants


  • Education and Training: extension
  • Energy: bioenergy and biofuels
  • Sustainable Communities: sustainability measures

    Proposal abstract:

    Switchgrass (Panicum virgatum L.) is a C4 perennial warm-season grass native to the eastern two-thirds of the United States and chosen as a model bioenergy feedstock species by the Department of Energy due to its high productivity across a wide geographic range, suitability for marginal land, low water and nutrient requirements, and positive environmental benefits. However, poor germination resulting in slow and inconsistent establishment and heavy weed competition is a major limitation to the successful adoption of this bioenergy crop. Currently herbicide applications are used to reduce weed competition during the establishment period and unfortunately do not completely guarantee successful stand establishment. It has been demonstrated that larger and heavier switchgrass seed has improved germination and emergence. The purpose of this project is to select switchgrass for heavier seed (compared to lighter seed) in an effort to improve germination, seedling vigor and stand establishment without the use of herbicides. A gravity deck will be used to separate seed of three switchgrass cultivars into heavy and light weight classes for two cycles of selection. All selection cycles will be compared for germination percent to determine if selection for heavy seed improves germination in switchgrass. This research should result in switchgrass cultivars with improved germination requiring less herbicides during establishment. A reduction in herbicide use will result in reduced health risks and environmental benefits, reduce the cost of production, increase the productivity and income and improve the quality of life of farmers by improving the production of a sustainable bioenergy crop.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    1. To determine whether selecting for heavy seed improves germination and emergence in three cultivars of switchgrass.
    2. To develop cultivars with improved establishment without the use of herbicides.
    3. To disseminate results in the form field day seminars, a peer-reviewed journal article and fact sheets regarding switchgrass establishment.

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.