Fact sheet: Switchgrass & Miscanthus as Biomass Crops for Ontario, Canada

agricultural map of Ontario

The economic and environmental benefits of PBCs are increasing their popularity across
Ontario’s agricultural community (4). The Ontario Biomass Producers organization is currently
implementing strategies encouraging farmers to convert unproductive or marginal farmlands to
PBC production (5). As biomass energy crops, they have the ability to improve the productivity
and health of marginal agricultural land, while providing economic income for farmers (5). Their
high biomass yields on degraded soils, strong environmental tolerances, low nutrient inputs and
similar management to other major crops grown in the region (corn, soy) make both miscanthus
and switchgrass effective crops for growth in Ontario (6). The climate and water availability in
southern and western Ontario are well suited to both crops; they establish well on most soil types
and have optimal air temperature ranges from 25°- 29°, which coincides with the growing season months (7). Miscanthus and switchgrass are both C4 plants with deep rooting systems that allow
them to use 50% less water than C3 crops per tonne of biomass and be 40% more effective at
solar energy conversion (7). As water availability is typically the limiting factor in Ontario
biomass yields, this makes switchgrass and miscanthus highly suitable for Ontario’s agricultural
production. In regions with poorer quality soils and higher temperatures, switchgrass is the
preferred crop, whereas in other regions miscanthus is preferred for its increased nutrient use
efficiency and carbon sequestration potentials (8). With the available marginal quality and low
yield production lands in Ontario, the integration of biomass crops shows substantial promise
both economically and environmentally.

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Biomass Production GoForages