Invasive Species

Invasive species are an emerging and expanding problem that has resulted in a tremendous increase in social and economic costs, as well as ecological stresses to native species and natural communities.  The expansion of biomass planting and harvesting represents a potential risk for increasing invasive species on the landscape.

A risk of all agricultural endeavors is possible escape of introduced novel crops (biomass or otherwise) into landscapes where they could potentially become invasive.  Such is the case with Miscanthus, a warm-season grass with high potential for biomass feedstock utilization.  Miscanthus x gigantius, the variety most likely used in bioenergy production, is a sterile cross of two known invasive Miscanthus parents.  However, visual differentiation of the sterile Miscanthus x gigantius from its invasive parents is especially difficult and certified sterility of tubers is lacking.

While risk of invasion of novel species and crops is a possibility associated with bioenergy, so is expansion of current invaders that have bioenergy feedstock potential.  Reed canary grass (Phalaris arundinacea) is a drought-tolerant tall perennial grass of wetlands and moist areas that has become a noxious invasive across much of the U.S. Midwest.  There is a native ecotype, but Eurasian varieties were brought to the U.S. as a forage and hay crop.  It is under consideration as a bioenergy feedstock source, particularly for combustion in biopower facilities.  The more aggressive introduced Eurasian varieties have escaped cultivation into areas causing ecological harm.  However, in highly disturbed areas with little probability of restoration, harvest of reed canary grass has a potential benefit not only as biopower feedstock but for removing excess nutrients from agricultural run-off (see [5]).