Changes in duration of rhizome cold storage and manipulation of the growing environment to promote field establishment of Miscanthus giganteus

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Davies, M.J. ; Longbottom, H. ; Atkinson, C.J. (2011)

Miscanthus biomass yield can be limited by poor rhizome establishment and this is linked to rhizome age and storage conditions prior to planting. To avoid poor establishment, best practice recommends field planting directly after rhizome division. Operations avoiding rhizome storage, and utilising favourable climatic conditions at planting, may be climatologically and logistically challenging when large areas are planted at high rhizome densities. Our aim is to evaluate storage regimes to maintain rhizome viability and maximise establishment when planted under optimal conditions. To achieve this we have compared differences in site pre-planting management (level of soil cultivation) strategies, along with post-planting treatments (irrigation and soil mulching with compost), against differences in storage regime (temperature) and duration. The results from a rhizome establishment bioassay showed viability at lifting in early March was high, while cold storage of rhizomes had no negative influence on viability and growth. There were no negative impacts of storage temperature on rhizome mineral or carbohydrate concentrations. Increases in air temperature enhanced rhizome and culm final biomass and rate of establishment. Application of irrigation, or compost mulch, to field rhizome plantings improved establishment increasing soil moisture levels in early May through August. In conclusion, cold storage of rhizomes is achievable and effective in maintaining rhizome viability and can be used to extend the planting time. Soil moisture and application of supplementary irrigation was important during establishment. Also important was the avoidance of weed competition. Achieving the most appropriate conditions for optimal establishment will be critical in regions where spring/summer rainfall is restrictive.
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