Energy grasses as feedstock crops
Arundo donax is a tall perennial cane that is being researched as a potential biomass crop for cellulosic ethanol production in North Carolina. Literature indicates that Arundo donax can produce 20 dry tons per acre annually, making it one of the most productive of all energy biomass crops.
Arundo donax generally grows to 20 feet in height, with hollow stems 2 to 3 centimeters in diameter. It is an asexually reproducing species due to seed sterility. Stems and rhizomes are used to establish new strands and are planted in late winter/early spring, preferably in March. Arundo donax can also be propagated through the vegetative process of cutting mature canes in the fall and burying them in the ground.
Research is being conducted through the Biofuels Center of North Carolina to address concerns about the possible invasiveness of Arundo donax, in order to establish protocols to control and responsibly grow the crop.
To help determine the viability of Arundo donax as a potential energy crop that can replace Coastal Bermuda grass in the sprayfields of North Carolina, research is currently being conducted that examines the nitrogen intake levels of the plant. Other key questions being addressed concern large-scale production, processing, and profitability. The Biofuels Wiki has a video clip of Arundo donax having been used pre-World War II at industrial scale in Italy for fiber for the production of viscose, a fabric similar to polyester.