Reed Canary Grass

Phalaris spp. Phalaris arundinacea

General info

Reed canary grasses are C3 native perennial grass species native to the Europe, Asia and North America. They can propagate via seed or rhizome and grow to maximum heights of 2 m. These grasses enjoy damp habitats and ditches or being beside water sources. They are often considered to be an invasive weed within wetland environments where they inhibit native vegetation and impact natural biodiversity.

They have been utilised as far back as the 1800’s in their inclusion for pasture species seed mixes, with modern breeding and genetic evaluation looking towards optimising their potential as a bioenergy crop via projects such as “Optimisation of Reed Canary Grass as a Native European Energy Crop” (ORNATE).

Cultivation and agronomy

Reed canary grass achieves yields of around 12.5 oven dried tonnes ha-1 y-1, this provides relatively equivalent yields to the C4 grass miscanthus with much lower establishment costs. However, it is more nutrient hungry than miscanthus making it less feasible for environmental energy production depending on their energy utilisation method of choice.

Canary grass species have a wide range of physiological tolerances including to flooding, drought, freezing, and grazing, making them promising for the variety of possible utilisations including marginal land use.

There are several pests known to impact growth of these grasses as well as difficulties surrounding harvesting due to incomplete senescence. They are also known to suffer from lodging issues, which can impact the yield achieved and be undesirable for a bio energy crop, where ease of harvest uniformity is often desired.

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Relevant research

Landström, S., Lomakka, L., & Andersson, S. (1996). Harvest in spring improves yield and quality of reed canary grass as a bioenergy crop. Biomass and bioenergy, 11(4), 333-341.

Jensen, E. F., Casler, M. D., Farrar, K., Finnan, J. M., Lord, R., Palmborg, C., … & Donnison, I. S. (2018). Reed canary grass: from production to end use. Perennial Grasses for Bioenergy and Bioproducts, 153-173.