switchgrass as an Agri-Fibre Crop

I am responding to the discussion last Friday about Switchgrass and its use
as a fibre for pulping. Resource Efficient Agricultural Production
(REAP)-Canada started working on switchgrass as a lignocellulosic biomass
crop in 1991. Our work was inspired by the promising results being obtained
by the US Department of Energy program on switchgrass and by Wes Jackson and
The Land Institute's efforts to use prairie plants as permanent agricultural
crops. The work originally was initiated with bioenergy interests to help
deal with the climate change problem. We are currently collaborating with
the Macdonald Campus of McGill University on the carbon storage potential of
the crop, as well we are performing energy budgeting and financial costing.
More recently our work has expanded to include the use of switchgrass as an
agri-fibre crop.  

We are currently involved with several pulp and paper companies to assess
the agri-fibre potential of switchgrass. All the evaluations to date
indicate that it can be used as a blend with wood fibre to produce fine
quality papers. Switchgrass would substitute for the hardwood component. The
Scandinavians have recently published several papers which indicate that
reed canary grass can be used at up to 70% of the mix to produce top quality
fine paper. We have also tested reed canary grass, but believe switchgrass
to have better pulp and agronomic traits as a feedstock. 

In 1996 we began farm scale studies on switchgrass to obtain further data on
switchgrass and to have material to perform paper mill runs, and to optimize
the supply system (harvest, storage, transport etc.) for the mills. We would
be most interested to hear of similar work on optimizing handling of big
bales of straw or hay. We also have had some problems with control of annual
grasses in establishing switchgrass. If anyone has any suggestions for
improving weed control we would be most interested to hear from you.
Finally, we would like to develop the crop as a straw substitute, any
experience out there with using it as bedding?

A recent article on our work was published in Pulp and Paper Canada magazine
which we reprinted in our most recent issue of our quarterly publication "
Sustainable Farming". I would be most pleased to send anyone a complimentary
copy of our publication if you contact us.  If you would like to subscribe
it costs $20.00/year US. Roger Samson, Executive Director,
                      REAP-CANADA, Box 125, 
                      Ste Anne de Bellevue, Quebec, 
                      H9X 3V9. Tel.(514) 398-7743, Fax (514)398-7972.