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Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Magnoliophyta
Class: Liliopsida
Order: Poales
Family: Poaceae
Genus: Panicum
Species: P. virgatum
Binomial name
Panicum virgatum

Switchgrass (Panicum virgatum) is a warm season grass and is one of the dominant species of the central North American tallgrass prairie. Switchgrass can be found in remnant prairies, along roadsides, pastures and as an ornamental plant in gardens. Other common names for this grass include tall panic grass, Wobsqua grass, lowland switchgrass, blackbent, tall prairiegrass, wild redtop and thatchgrass.



Switchgrass is a hardy, perennial rhizomatous grass which begins growth in late spring. It can grow up to 1.8-2.2 m in height but is typically shorter than Big Bluestem grass or Indiangrass. The leaves are 30-90 cm long with a prominent midrib. Switchgrass uses C4 carbon fixation, giving it an advantage in conditions of drought and high temperature.[1] Its flowers have a well developed panicle often up to 60 cm in length and bears a good crop of fruits, which are 3 to 6 mm long and up to 1.5 mm wide. The fruits are developed from a single-flowered spikelet. Both glumes are present and well developed. When ripe, the seeds sometimes take on a pink or dull-purple tinge, and turn golden brown with the foliage of the plant in the fall.


Switchgrass is grazed by certain animals, used as ground cover to control erosion and farmed as forage for livestock. As a drought resistant ornamental grass, it is easily grown in average to wet soils and in full sun to part shade. Establishment is recommended in the spring, at the same time as maize is planted.

Use in Tennessee alternative fuel program

In January 2007, Tennessee Governor Phil Bredesen announced that his proposed 2007-08 State budget would include $61 million for a comprehensive alternative fuels strategy designed "to position Tennessee to be a national leader in the production of biomass ethanol and related research."[2] Bredesen proposed this funding in combination with $11.6 million in existing funding for an ongoing related project at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), for a total proposal representing a $72.6 million comprehensive plan.[3] Scientists at ORNL and the University of Tennessee (UT) Institute for Agriculture have developed ethanol from switchgrass, which can be grown virtually anywhere in Tennessee.[4]

See also


  1. ^ Silzer, Tanya (January 2000). Panicum virgatum L., Switchgrass, prairie switchgrass, tall panic grass. Rangeland Ecosystems & Plants Fact Sheets. University of Saskatchewan Department of Plant Sciences. Retrieved on 2007-12-08.
  2. ^
  3. ^
  4. ^

Additional references to be merged with the above references. (I have no idea how to do this and will need help).

4. USDA NRCS Plant Fact Sheet. Switchgrass - Panicum virgatum L. Plant symbol = PAVI2. 16Jan2001 JKL; 28sp05 jsp; 24may06sjp


6. Farmers' motivations for adoption of switchgrass. Hipple PC, Duffy MD. Trands in New Crops and New Uses, ed. J. Janich and A. Whipkey, pp. 252-266, ASHA Press, Alexandria VA, 2002.

7. The Biofuels Explosion: Is Green Engergy Good for Wildlife? Laura Bies, The Wildlife Society Bulletin 34(4): 1203-1205; 2006

8. Native Plants Journal. Fall, 2000. Vol. 1(2) ISSN 1522-8339.

9. Switchgrass Production in Ontario: A Management Guide. Samson, R., 2007. Resourse Efficient Agriculture Production (REAP) - Canada

10. The isolation and identification of steroidal sapogenins in switchgrass. Lee ST, Vogel KP, Jnl of Natural Toxins, Vol 10 No. 4 2001 p 273-81.

11. Fall Panicum (Panicum dichotomiflorum) Hepatotoxicosis in Horses and Sheep. Johnson, AL, J Vet Intern Med 2006;20:1414-1421.

12. Switchgrass (Panicum virgatum) Toxicity in Rodents, Sheep, Goats and Horses. Stegelmeier, BL, USDA-ARS Poisonous Plant Research Laboratory, Logan UT & ILS, Inc, Research Triangle Park, NC. As reprinted in Utah State University Extension Veterinary Newsletter. July, 2005.

13. Table 28. Guidelines for rotational stocking of selected forage crops. International Plant Nutrition Institute (IPNI) Forage Crop Pocket Guide Developed by Ball, Hoveland, Lacefield Edited by Armstrong, Darst 2006

14. Table 33b. Total Digestible Nutrients (TDN) and Relative Feed Value (RFV) Ranges for Various Forge Crops. International Plant Nutrition Institute (IPNI) Forage Crop Pocket Guide Developed by Ball, Hoveland, Lacefield Edited by Armstrong, Darst 2006

15. Planting and Managing Switchgrass for Forage, Wildlife, and Conservation. Wolf, DD, Fiske, DA. Virginia Cooperative Extension Publication # 418-013, June, 1996.

16. Native Warm-Season Perennial Grasses for Forage in Kentucky. Rasnake, M., Lacefield, G. University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service. AGR-145, 2004

17. Establishing and Managing Switchgrass. Renz, M., Undersander, D. University of Wisconsin Extension, 3/15/07

18. Switchgrass. Salvo, SK, Brock, BG. Division of Forest Resources, North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

19. Plentiful switchgrass emerges as breakthrough biofuel. Bob Secter. Chicago Tribune. The San Diego Union Tribune. 12/21/06.

20. Switchgrass Profile. David Bransby, Auburn University.

Additional information

  • "Switchgrass: A Living Solar Battery." Roger Samson Online reprint
  • Economics of switchgrass production
  • USDA Studies Switchgrass for Ethanol and Energy Production
  • Switchgrass as an Alternative Energy crop - European Union study on Switchgrass feasibility.
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Switchgrass". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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