Biomass Production of Arundo Donax: A Country Specific Overview


With around 50-80 dry tonnes of biomass yield per hectare every year, Arundo donax (giant reed) is way ahead of its competitors. Of course, this yield depends on climate and applied agricultural technology. In this article below, the studies carried out concerning the biomass yield and economics of Arundo donax are presented.


Biomass production in the Mediterranean: Italy, Spain and Sicily

Biomass production on unfavourable areas is a crucial aspect of the economics of giant reed. A comprehensive research focusing on the sustainability features of energy crops also synthesised the results of several EU-funded projects and stressed that Arundo donax is one of the most suitable feedstocks to produce biomass on marginal agricultural areas of Europe.

Availability of marginal land for industrial crops in the EU

Chiaramonti et al. (2000) found that sorghum and Arundo donax proved to have the best growth rate on coastal and arid area of the Mediterranean region. Pulighe et al. (2016) emphasised the biomass production potential of various perennial species (including giant reed) on a marginal and contaminated regions of Italy. According to their results, giant reed had outstanding performances in terms of yield, irrigation needs, and water use efficiency and fertilizer use even under less favourable agronomic circumstances.

Miscanthus, Arundo donax and Switchgrass were in the focus of the study of Rodias et al. (2017). A common framework, including all the in-field and transport operations, was used in order to gain accurate results for all the crops. These results showed that even though giant reed required the highest energy input, the energy balance (in a 10 years long period) was also the highest for Arundo donax: 4654.4 GJ/hectare. This is more than double of the results of Switchgrass (1760.3 GJ/ha) and significantly higher than Miscanthus (3025.3 GJ/ha). Consequently, from the energetic balance point of view giant reed is the most advantageous crop from the above mentioned species.


Using pre-treated sewage effluent for irrigation was in the focus of the study of Tzanakakis, et al. (2012). For three years, they had been studying and comparing giant reed with other non-grass biomass candidates (namely: Acacia cyanophylla, Eucalyptus camaldulensis and Populus nigra). Arundo donax had the second highest energy production cost (2.34 EUR/GJ) but the highest nutrient use efficiency for nitrogen and phosphorus, thus making giant reed a candidate to converse waste water into bioenergy production.

Zema et al. (2012) implemented a similar approach investigating the effects of using sewages of an urban wastewater depuration plant for biomass production with three energy crops (Typha latifolia, Arundo donax and Phragmites australis). After the two-year long field study they found increased biomass yield and the highest energy yield per unit for Arundo donax. Furthermore, according to the results of Seshadri et al. (2016) among the potential landfill biomass plants (sunflower, sugarcane, giant reed, willow, switch and miscanthus) giant reed was unquestionably the most outstanding kind with a biomass yield of 70.8 tons/hectare.

The Effect of WASTEWATER IRRIGATION on Perennial Energy Crops

The Sicilian biomass potential was investigated by Chinnici et al. (2015) and they found that after livestock sewage, dedicated bioenergy crops represent the second highest amount of biomass potential. From the perennials, giant reed had the ability to offer a valid alternative to arable farming, particularly on marginal lands.

Biomass production in Greece

Cardoon and Arundo donax were compared to assess their performances as energy crops and their input for biomass district heating.


In the study both plants were estimated to have 15 years of economic life and in the calculations it was concluded that both can be economically feasible compared to traditional crop production, under local circumstances, once they are carefully integrated to the current production system, in terms of employment, apparatus and timing, and – clearly – taking into consideration the several subsidies available for energy crop production in the EU.

Biomass production in the USA

The USA is dedicated to bioenergy production from lignocellulosic feedstocks and giant reed is considered as an ideal input candidate as it finds ideal conditions for growth in warm climates like in the south-eastern US states with abundant water availability.

Arundo donax is also highly tolerant for the radical natural conditions provided by the marginal lands available for biomass production. However, the aspect of invasiveness also has to be considered. Even though giant reed allures with higher yield, the better social acceptance helps switchgrass to be cultivated more. But is Arundo donax really that invasive?

Is Arundo INVASIVE? The EPA’s ruling is here to decide!

The DAYCENT model, using long-term field research results as parameters, confirmed the higher yields for giant reed (16.3 tons per hectare) compared to switchgrass (7.9 tons per hectare).

If you have questions regarding the use of Arundo donax for biomass production, visit our website or send us an email at info@arundobioenergy.com

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