Future Biofuel Plant Might Be An Invasive Species

posted Jul 22, 2012, 10:13 PM by Mike Todd   [ updated Jul 22, 2012, 10:14 PM ]
From the Iowa Native Plants Listserve:

Original Message From Connie Mutel:

Someone sent me this link to an ISU brochure promoting “ Miscanthus (Miscanthus x giganteus) for Biofuel Production”.

I was under the impression that even if sterile, Miscanthus spp could spread by chunks breaking off and floating downstream, where it would re-root and spread.  Thus no Miscanthus is really “safe.”




Am I incorrect here? Do others have more insight into the use of Miscanthus? I hear it mentioned as a biofuel frequently.

Thanks, Connie Mutel

Response From Jennifer Anderson-Cruz:

Since many wetland graminoids do so habitually, I suspect detachment, transport and asexual spread is highly likely, especially in floodplain situations.
Last winter I asked plant breeders working with the pollen sterile Miscanthus whether it'll have the same problem as the pollen sterile purple loosestrife; will it produce viable seed as long as there are pollen fertile plants nearby (crossing)?  I was told it might, but no one was certain. The references I've pasted below indicate that the triploid Miscanthus x. giganteus is "mostly" sterile; the third reference indicates crossing is an issue for at least one "sterile" cultivar. 
Due to the height and density of the varieties they were working with, the plant breeders also said that there is little to no wildlife habitat value and a lot of bare ground underneath, which poses a soil erosion concern.  One of the links below cites research indicating that Miscanthus has greater ecological value than corn and reed canarygrass, if you consider those relevant comparables.

2.  Linde-Laursen, I. (1993), Cytogenetic Analysis of Miscanthus‘Giganteus’, an Interspecific Hybrid. Hereditas, 119: 297–300. doi: 10.1111/j.1601-5223.1993.00297.x

3. Breeding approaches to improvement of yield and quality in Miscanthus grown in EuropeMartin Deuter.  TINPLANT Biotechnik und Pflanzenvermehrung GmbH. D-39164 Klein Wanzleben.