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Switchgrass: Panicum virgatum L.

"We will also fund additional research in cutting-edge methods of producing ethanol, not just from corn, but from wood chips and stalks or switchgrass."

--George W. Bush, State of the Union Speech, 31 January 2006.

So, what is Switchgrass? It is Panicum virgatum L. , also called Tall Panic Grass, Wobsqua grass, lowland switchgrass, blackbent, tall prairiegrass, wild redtop, and thatchgrass. It grows in prairies, moist open ground, open woods and salt marshes from Maine west to Utah, and from Canada south to Florida and Arizona, through Mexico and the West Indies to Costa Rica.

Many farmers grow switchgrass, either as forage for livestock, in wildlife areas, or as a ground cover, to control erosion. Switchgrass is also planted as an ornamental. It is easily grown in average to wet soils and in full sun to part shade, is very drought resistant and is resistant to many pests and plant diseases. Due to its hardiness and rapid growth, switchgrass is often considered a good candidate for farming as feedstock or for biofuel production (for example, ethanol). Switchgrass has the potential to produce the biomass required for production of up to 1000 gallons of ethanol per acre.If the yield is indeed this high, Switchgrass is indeed a very attractive candidate for biofuel, as this value by far exceeds any other crop tested. It is presumably because of this high energy yield that President George W. Bush mentioned the species in his State of the Union address.

The Virtual Herbarium and the Lu Esther T. Mertz Library offer the following resources for more information about Switchgrass: