||This article contains weasel words: vague phrasing that often accompanies biased or unverifiable information. (June 2013)|
|Miscanthus × giganteus|
Miscanthus × giganteus is a large, perennial grass hybrid of Miscanthus sinensis and Miscanthus sacchariflorus. This full sun plant grows 8–12 feet tall each year and is best suited for hardiness Zones 5 - 9.
M. × giganteus is a C4 plant, and thus exhibits greater photosynthetic efficiency and lower water use requirements than other kinds of plants. It has very low nutritional requirements – it has high nitrogen use efficiency and therefore is capable of growing well on barren land without the aid of heavy fertilization. M. × giganteus is a sterile hybrid and therefore propagates vegetatively underground through its rhizomes. Additional researched benefits of M. × giganteus include its ability to sequester carbon into the earth.
It is currently used in the European Union as a commercial energy crop, as a source of heat and electricity, or converted into biofuel products such as ethanol.
Research trials being conducted in the United Kingdom, United States and Ireland are making strides towards developing Miscanthus x giganteus as a source of biomass for the production of energy either for direct combustion or through cellulosic ethanol or other biofuel production. Miscanthus is grown in Europe mainly for cofiring in coal power generating facilities, and could supply 12% of the EU's energy need by 2050. In the United States, SunBelt Biofuels founder Phillip Jennings has worked with Mississippi State's Brian Baldwin to develop a more effective, marketable Miscanthus grass strain. SunBelt has since been renamed REPREVE Renewables, and has developed a program to distribute the strain to growers, refiners, and others interested in the plant (dubbed "FREEDOM giant miscanthus", as the company hopes to reduce American dependence on foreign oil).
In a significant development for the large scale production of this energy crop, Aloterra Energy LLC was approved by the USDA in 2011 to manage four Miscanthus × giganteus energy crop projects under a 2008 Farm Bill program named the Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP). These projects are being operated by Aloterra Energy LLC and MFA Oil Biomass LLC (a partnership between Aloterra Energy LLC and MFA Oil Company). Each BCAP Project Area is projected to establish 50,000 acres of Miscanthus to initially convert into solid fuel pellets. As technologies develop, their miscanthus will be used to create renewable liquid fuels and biobased chemicals and products. As part of the USDA BCAP program, Aloterra Energy and MFA Oil Biomass are working together on an initial planting of approximately 18,000 acres of miscanthus in 2012.
Some manufacturers are currently exploring the possibility of using Miscanthus grass as input for plastics and other products traditionally constructed from petroleum fuels.
Miscanthus × giganteus is also used as a high-quality bedding typically for equine applications. Several companies in Europe sell packaged Miscanthus bedding. Some European bedding companies include: Miscanthus bedding LTD., and Colehay. As the United States waits for bioenergy markets to emerge, American companies have begun using Miscanthus × giganteus as a bedding as well including BuyMiscanthus.com  and Floyd Valley Biomass LLC. Miscanthus has a very high C:N ratio  making it inhospitable to many microbes thus creating a very clean and antibacterial bedding. Therein lies the advantage to equine and poultry applications. Miscanthus × giganteusbedding promotes hoof and foot health.
Comparison to corn ethanol
Compared to other ethanol inputs, giant Miscanthus grass produces more mass overall, as well as more ethanol. For example, a typical acre of corn yields around 7.6 tons of biomass per acre and 756 gallons of ethanol. Giant Miscanthus is capable of producing up to 20 tons of biomass and 3,250 gallons of ethanol fuel.
Another major potential benefit of Miscanthus grass is that it is not a food crop. Corn-based ethanol, which is the version with which most people are familiar, is based on creating fuel from a product that could be used to feed people or livestock. When market forces change the demand for corn, prices can fluctuate wildly, deeply affecting the ability of many to purchase food. Since Miscanthus grass is not a food crop in the Western Hemisphere, changes in demand will not have a direct effect on the price of food, unless land used for food crops is converted to growing this crop.
Comparison to timber and other grasses
Wood timber is one of the worst sources for ethanol production. At a maximum of four tons of biomass per acre, and around 520 gallons of ethanol produced, it is a relatively poor performer, compared to Miscanthus's 3,250 gallons, assuming it could be grown on the same land. While this may seem like an unfair comparison, Miscanthus even outperforms other grasses, such as switchgrass, which yields around 3-6 tons of biomass and 400-900 gallons of ethanol fuel.
Funding and research
Large colleges, such as the University of Illinois, Mississippi State University and University of Georgia have committed several years and large portions of money to studying ethanol production in general. Along the way, some, such as UI, Michigan State University, and the University of Wisconsin have dedicated entire programs to researching the benefits of Miscanthus grass as an ethanol feedstock. One such program is the Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center (GLBRC) led by the University of Wisconsin and Michigan State University. Recently, with the addition of Dr. Emily Heaton, Iowa State University has also increased their research into Miscanthus × giganteus. Dr. Heaton's lab  focuses on producing dedicated energy crops.
- “Cold Tolerance of C4 photosynthesis in Miscanthus × giganteus: Adaptation in Amounts and Sequence of C4 Photosynthetic Enzymes.” Plant Physiology 132, (2003): 1688-1697.
- Iris Lewandowski, John Clifton-Brown, Jonathon Scurlock, and Willem Huisman, "Miscanthus: European Experience with a Novel Energy Crop," Biomass & Bioenergy 19, no. 4 (2000): 210.
- Clifton-Brown, John, Joern Breuer, and Michael Jones. "Carbon Mitigation by the Energy Crop, Miscanthus." Global Change Biology 13, no. 11 (2007): 2296-307.
- National Non-Food Crops Centre. "NNFCC Crop Factsheet: Miscanthus". Retrieved on 2011-02-17.
- Dondini M, Hastings A, Saiz G, Jones MB, Smith P (2009) The potential of Miscanthus to sequester carbon in soils: comparing field measurements in Carlow, Ireland to model predictions. Global Change Biology Bioenergy. 1-6, 413–425.
- Mississippi State University press release announcing the viability of Miscanthus grass as a biofuel feedstock
- Miscanthus Study at SERC at Mississippi State University
- Miscanthus Study at the University of Illinois
- US Can meet US Biofuel goals using less land - A study showing how Miscanthus can create more ethanol with less space
- REPREVE Renewables US supplier of Freedom giant miscanthus, a variety for the southeastern United States
- New EnergyFarms US, Canada and EU developer and commercial supplier of Miscanthus
- Miscanthus Crops pictures
- Miscanthus x giganteus - as an energy crop - Miscanthus Research at the University of Illinois
- NovaBiom Pictures of commercially grown Miscanthus in Europe