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Open Access Publications from the University of California

For switchgrass cultivated as biofuel in California, invasiveness limited by several steps


The expected production of biomass-derived liquid fuels in the United States may require cultivation of millions of acres of bioenergy crops, including perennial grasses such as switchgrass. Switchgrass is not native to California and possesses many qualities in common with other perennial grasses that are invasive. To evaluate the potential invasiveness of switchgrass in California, we conducted risk analysis and climate-matching models as well as greenhouse and field evaluations of switchgrass, looking at its environmental tolerance and competitive ability against resident riparian vegetation. We concluded that dryland regions of California are not suitable to vigorous establishment and invasion of switchgrass. However, riparian areas appear to be far more likely to support switchgrass populations. With effective mitigation practices in place throughout the development, growth, harvest, transport and storage processes, it should be possible to minimize or eliminate the movement of seeds and vegetative propagules to sensitive habitats. Consequently, we believe that switchgrass is unlikely to become a significant problem in California, even with widescale production.

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