The effect of harvest date and harvest method on the combustion characteristics ofMiscanthus×giganteus

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Abstract

Miscanthus × giganteus is an energy crop with many attributes that make it a potential biofuel feedstock. This study examined the chemical composition of M. × giganteus stems cut at different dates throughout the spring harvest window (January, February and March) and either left in a swath or left flat in a thin layer on the ground and compared the composition to that of the standing crop collected on the same date in April (control). The research then examined the effect of cutting date on the chemical composition of whole plant M. × giganteus biomass (leaf and stem). The parameters examined in both parts of this experiment were lower heating value on a wet basis (LHVWB), ash, chlorine, potassium, nitrogen, sulphur, carbon and hydrogen content. The range of values recorded for the parameters from both aspects of this trial were LHVWB 4.84–11.87 MJ kg−1; ash 1.44–1.97%; Cl 0.07–0.23%; K 0.15–0.32%; N 0.28–0.39%; S 0.13–0.19%; C 46.75–50.00%; H 5.76–6.09%. The length of time that the M. × giganteus remained in the field after cutting affected the LHVWB (increased with time) of the stem biomass material. Cutting the biomass and leaving it in the field lowered the ash, Cl and C content of the stem material compared to that of the control which was cut and collected on the same date. No differences were observed for the other parameters. Date of harvest affected the LHVWB, Cl and C content which all improved with later cutting dates. Thus, combustion quality can be improved by delaying the harvest date or by cutting the crop and leaving it in the field for a period prior to collection. Choosing the correct combination of time and harvest method can therefore improve biomass fuel quality.

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