Cultivating forage maize for biomass and bioenergy in a sub-boreal climate
The biomass potential of eight high yielding maize cultivars was studied in the sub-boreal climate of southern Finland. The effects of harvest date on lignin and sugar production, biomass yield, mineral element composition, bioenergy potential and soil nutrient management were determined in two years. The eight maize cultivars produced 17.6–33.3 t ha-1 of biomass. The ear fraction contained 50–60% of the biomass, and ash and mineral element composition of the plant fractions were significantly different (p < 0.001), with more ash, Ca and S in the above-ear fractions of the plants than in the mid-stalk portions, whereas the C:N ratio was highest in the lower stalk. Cultivars with less lignin content produced more fermetable sugars. Despite the relatively cool growing conditions and short season of the sub-boreal region, maize has potential for use as biomass, for biofuel or other uses. The crop can be fractioned into ear and stalk, with the lower 20 cm of stalk left in the field to maintain soil organic matter content.