Date of Award


Document Type

Master's Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science in Applied Ecology (MS)

College, School or Department Name

School of Forest Resources and Environmental Science


Catherine Sophia Tarasoff


Pekka Olavi Nygren


Switchgrass (Panicum virgatum L.) is a perennial grass holding great promise as a biofuel resource. While Michigan’s Upper Peninsula has an appropriate land base and climatic conditions, there is little research exploring the possibilities of switchgrass production. The overall objectives of this research were to investigate switchgrass establishment in the northern edge of its distribution through: investigating the effects of competition on the germination and establishment of switchgrass through the developmental and competitive characteristics of Cave-in-Rock switchgrass and large crabgrass (Digitaria sanguinalis L.) in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula; and, determining the optimum planting depths and timing for switchgrass in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

For the competition study, a randomized complete block design was installed June 2009 at two locations in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Four treatments (0, 1, 4, and 8 plants/m2) of crabgrass were planted with one switchgrass plant. There was a significant difference between switchgrass biomass produced in year one, as a function of crabgrass weed pressure. There was no significant difference between the switchgrass biomass produced in year two versus previous crabgrass weed pressure. There is a significant difference between switchgrass biomass produced in year one and two.

For the depth and timing study, a completely randomized design was installed at two locations in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula on seven planting dates (three fall 2009, and four spring 2010); 25 seeds were planted 2 cm apart along 0.5 m rows at depths of: 0.6 cm, 1.3 cm, and 1.9 cm. Emergence and biomass yields were compared by planting date, and depths. A greenhouse seeding experiment was established using the same planting depths and parameters as the field study. The number of seedlings was tallied daily for 30 days. There was a significant difference in survivorship between the fall and spring planting dates, with the spring being more successful. Of the four spring planting dates, there was a significant difference between May and June in emergence and biomass yield. June planting dates had the most percent emergence and total survivorship. There is no significant difference between planting switchgrass at depths of 0.6 cm, 1.3 cm, and 1.9 cm.

In conclusion, switchgrass showed no signs of a legacy effect of competition from year one, on biomass production. Overall, an antagonistic effect on switchgrass biomass yield during the establishment period has been observed as a result of increasing competing weed pressure. When planting switchgrass in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, it should be done in the spring, within the first two weeks of June, at any depth ranging from 0.6 cm to 1.9 cm.