How Seasonal Drought Affect Carbon and Water Fluxes of Alternative Energy Crops in the US?
Abstract:The cellulosic biomass of Switchgrass (Panicum virgatum L.), Miscanthus (Miscanthus giganteus) and native prairie are considered candidate second-generation biofuels, potentially resulting in partial replacement annual row crops within the Midwestern US. There is an increasing focus to study the environmental impact of agricultural crops, however not much is known on the influence on the energy, carbon and water cycles of energy crops, especially under drought conditions. This study compares the impact of drought episodes (in 2011 and 2012) on evapotranspiration (ET), net ecosystem productivity (NEP) and water use efficiency (WUE; equals to NEP/ET) for Switchgrass (SW), Miscanthus (MXG), Maize (MZ) and native prairie (NP) grown in Central Illinois using the eddy covariance technique.
Due to the prolonged drought and the rapid growth development with increasing ET of MXG in 2012, large water deficit (precipitation-ET) was observed for each species up to the highest deficit of -360 mm for this species. The gross primary production (GPP) of MZ was radically decreased by the drought in 2011 and 2012, while SW and NP were not influenced. MXG increased NEP throughout the typically wet and drought years, mainly due to the decrease in respiration and by the largest GPP upon the drought in 2012. Despite having the largest water deficit, MXG showed an enhanced WUE of 12.8 and 11.4 Kg C ha-1mm-1 in 2011 and 2012, respectively, in comparison to years typical to the region with WUE of 3.7-7.3 Kg C ha-1mm-1. Other species did not show a significant enhancement of WUE. Therefore we conclude that out of the studied species, MXG has more access to water, and uses this water the most efficiently to store carbon, under drought conditions.