Arundo donax, or Giant reed, is a plant belonging to the Poaceae family – the same as wheat, barley, maize, and rice. If you live in Italy you have seen that for sure near the street or near little rivers because this plant loves to stay in humid areas. Arundo has an important peculiarity and it is fascinating for scientists and farmers: the photosynthesis is classified as “C3” but the production of biomass is comparable to “C4 plant”.
Morphology of the plant
Focusing a while on the morphology this plant presents a principal stem and other secondary stems, the height can reach 5 meters and the diameter can be until 4 cm, sometimes the principal stem is higher than the other ones. Secondary stems grow from the rhizome (stem modified to be similar to roots) and go on sprouting during all the growing season. Talking about the flower, we can say that Arundo is sterile, this is caused by a malfunction in the formation of the female part of the flower, called megaspore. This characteristic can be seen as positive or negative, it is positive because in this way the plant can’t be invasive and can’t fill the field but from a genetic point of view this fact is negative, we are not allowed to cross plants and the breeding is really complex.
Another important feature to pay attention to is that not a lot of products and pesticides are legally allowed to be used on Arundo. Luckily this plant is not really susceptible to disease even if is a Poaceae, but in the future could be a problem if a pathogen developed an interest.
Harvesting and quality treats
The harvesting probably is the most difficult part, has to be done once per year, and here in Europe is done in late autumn. It is also really important to try not to destroy completely the plant during the harvesting and try to lose as little material as possible, and I know that it is not easy talking about 5-meter-high plants. The last information is the quality! So why do we produce this plant? It is not eaten, at least no one eats that here in Italy. It is used for biomass production, so cellulose is really important, lignin needs to be as lower as possible. Another investigated use it for building, in some cases can be seen as a plant really similar to bamboo.
Personal study and future perspective
In my study, we are comparing how different ecotypes of Arundo and other plants interesting for biomass production behave in stress conditions. We have some plants used as tests, so we water them constantly, keep the soil perfect and we give some nutrition and at the same time we have some plants stress, so no water, no nutrition, only my love.
In particular we are comparing Arundo donax, Saccharum spontaneum (a relative of sugarcane) and Mischatus spp. Let's see who will win the non-water race!
I am asking these questions for the next articles:
Do you know the difference between C3 and C4 plants?
Are you interested in some genetic characteristics of Arundo?
Do you want to know something more about biomass and the feature of the plant?
What an interesting topics about plants- Arundo in particular. I don’t know this plant but looks very similat to bamboos which is common in our country.