Comparison of yield, calorific value and ash content in woody and herbaceous biomass used for bioenergy production in southern Ontario, Canada
Recently, the use of biomass to produce energy has resulted in evaluating each potential biomass species individually, and primarily in terms of yield potentials. However, discrepancies between species yield caused by varying site conditions and varying fertilization regimes between studies do exist. Therefore, this study attempts to address some of these discrepancies by growing multiple species simultaneously on marginal land with zero fertilization. The yield and fuel characteristics of the four most commonly used biomass feedstocks (Miscanthus, switchgrass, willow and poplar) in southern Ontario, along with one herbaceous polyculture, were investigated. Species' influence on microclimatic modifications was quantified during the 2010 and 2011 growing seasons in order to understand its impact on biomass yields. Yield data was gathered for each species treatment for both growing seasons. Few significant differences were found between species during establishment. Fuel characteristics analyses including, gross calorific value, ash (%), and an elemental ash analysis were completed during 2010 and 2011. The differences between the combustion properties of the grass species and the woody species were obvious, but neither could be conclusively determined as universally better than the other. Yield and fuel characteristics change as plants mature, therefore research should be continued in future years once plots are fully established to determine which species are best suited for bioenergy production in Southern Ontario. This will help growers and energy producers focus on crops that have the most potential in achieving environmental sustainability and economic viability.