Cropping perennial grasses (Miscanthus sinensis gigantheus) on soils contaminated with heavy metals [Romania]

Cultivarea cu Miscanthus a solurilor poluate cu metale grele (Romanian)

technologies_1706 - Romania

Completeness: 82%

1. General information

1.2 Contact details of resource persons and institutions involved in the assessment and documentation of the Technology

Key resource person(s)

SLM specialist:
SLM specialist:
SLM specialist:

Horia Barbu

Lucian Blaga University of Sibiu


Name of the institution(s) which facilitated the documentation/ evaluation of the Technology (if relevant)
National Research and Development Institute for So (National Research and Development Institute for So) - Romania

1.3 Conditions regarding the use of data documented through WOCAT

The compiler and key resource person(s) accept the conditions regarding the use of data documented through WOCAT:


1.4 Declaration on sustainability of the described Technology

Is the Technology described here problematic with regard to land degradation, so that it cannot be declared a sustainable land management technology?


2. Description of the SLM Technology

2.1 Short description of the Technology

Definition of the Technology:

Miscanthus sinensis gigantheus is a perennial warm-season grass used as a commercial energy crop on soils contaminated with heavy metals.

2.2 Detailed description of the Technology


Cropping Miscanthus sinensis gigantheus mainly addresses the problem of land contamination with toxic materials namely soil pollution with heavy metals due to industrial activities. Miscanthus is a perennial warm-season grass used as a commercial energy crop. The plant is a sterile hybrid, unable to produce viable seed, vegetative propagation being by rhizomes, therefore reducing the risk to become invasive. Its special type of photosynthesis (C4) implies the return of the nutrients in the rhizomes during the cold season. As temperatures cool in the fall, the dark green foliage fades to buff and drops, leaving the stems which are the most important commercial part of Miscanthus. Regarding cropping on contaminated soils, research has shown that the amount of heavy metals uptaken by Miscanthus is extremely low, making the plant unsuitable for phytoextraction but allowing it to be used for green energy or in various other fields like pulp and paper industry, without any risk. Miscanthus sinensis gigantheus stands for an alternative crop, from which an annual income can be obtained, instead of food crops and fodder that can represent a risk for human and animal consumption in areas with soils contaminated with heavy metals.

The aim of this technology is to assure a sustainable use of polluted soils with heavy metals through cultivation of energy crops with economic value and very few risks for humans, animals and environment. Studies of Miscanthus sinensis gigantheus behaviour on contaminated soils with heavy metals showed that very small amount of Pb (Lead) and Cd (Cadmium) were detected in the upper parts of the plants. In comparison, higher amounts of heavy metals is being retained at root level in rhizomes, which in time will decrease when root system will develop deeper, in less affected soil horizons as roots can reach 2-3 m in depth. The applied technology increases overall soil quality in terms of organic matter, nutrients and structure. Miscanthus cropping enhances the nutrients cycle in the plant–soil system. As a result of the high input of leaves, rhizomes and roots, the alluvial sandy loam soils, on which Miscanthus is currently croped, can benefit of increased organic carbon amount.

The establishment phase takes place on arable land (annual cropland) which after implementation will become a permanent cropland with perennial (non-woody) cropping, as the crop has the potential to be in the ground for at least 15 years. Miscanthus cropping technique consists of the following: weeding the site in July-August by spraying herbicides for controlling perennial weeds, deep ploughing in October-November to improve subsoil structure and soil aeration possible affected by compaction or hardpan, harrowing in February-April to ensure an adequate seedbed for rhizomes and planting in March-May. Early planting is being recommended as it takes advantage of spring time soil moisture and allows an extended first season of growth. The operation can be made using a modular potato planter or specialized planter like Miscanthus ETPM4. The planting rate is 10 000 rhizomes per hectare in order to provide a good crop density required to achieve optimal yields from year three onwards and effective weed suppression through competition. Rhizomes need to be planted at a depth of 8-15 cm and at 1m x 1m wide spacing. The crop is harvested annually during February-March, typically with conventional farm machineries or specialized ones like Miscanthus CRM Harvesting Cropper. The crop needs 3 to 4 years to reach a mature yield between 15-18 t/ha. The technology requires mechanized agricultural operations and investments in specialized equipment, if necessary.

The technology is applied mainly on alluvial sandy loam soils (Fluvisols), with deep depths, on low lands with flat-gentle slops (0-5%), placed in valley floors/floodplains. The climate is temperate, semi-arid, with an average annual rainfall between 550-600 mm. The plots cropped with Miscanthus are privately owned but leased. Size of crop land where the technology is applied is usually small up to 2 ha. The farmers receive agricultural subsidies and the production system is mechanized and market oriented.

2.3 Photos of the Technology

2.5 Country/ region/ locations where the Technology has been applied and which are covered by this assessment



Region/ State/ Province:


Further specification of location:

Sibiu/Axente Sever

Specify the spread of the Technology:
  • evenly spread over an area
If the Technology is evenly spread over an area, specify area covered (in km2):


If precise area is not known, indicate approximate area covered:
  • 0.1-1 km2

Total area covered by the SLM Technology is 0.14 km2.

2.6 Date of implementation

If precise year is not known, indicate approximate date:
  • less than 10 years ago (recently)

2.7 Introduction of the Technology

Specify how the Technology was introduced:
  • through projects/ external interventions
Comments (type of project, etc.):

from 2008

3. Classification of the SLM Technology

3.2 Current land use type(s) where the Technology is applied



  • Perennial (non-woody) cropping
  • grass (Miscanthus sinensis gigantheus)
Number of growing seasons per year:
  • 1

Longest growing period in days: 240Longest growing period from month to month: April until October


Major land use problems (compiler’s opinion): Soil contamination with heavy metals (Pb, Cd, Zn).
Major land use problems (land users’ perception): Soil contamination with heavy metals (Pb, Cd, Zn).

3.3 Has land use changed due to the implementation of the Technology?

Has land use changed due to the implementation of the Technology?
  • Yes (Please fill out the questions below with regard to the land use before implementation of the Technology)


  • Annual cropping

3.4 Water supply

Water supply for the land on which the Technology is applied:
  • rainfed

3.5 SLM group to which the Technology belongs

  • improved ground/ vegetation cover
  • integrated soil fertility management

3.6 SLM measures comprising the Technology

vegetative measures

vegetative measures

  • V2: Grasses and perennial herbaceous plants
management measures

management measures

  • M2: Change of management/ intensity level
  • M4: Major change in timing of activities

Main measures: vegetative measures
Secondary measures: management measures
Type of vegetative measures: aligned: -linear

3.7 Main types of land degradation addressed by the Technology

soil erosion by water

soil erosion by water

  • Wt: loss of topsoil/ surface erosion
soil erosion by wind

soil erosion by wind

  • Ed: deflation and deposition
chemical soil deterioration

chemical soil deterioration

  • Cp: soil pollution

Main causes of degradation: release of airborne pollutants (urban/industry…) (Heavy metals contamination (Pb, Cd, Zn))
Secondary causes of degradation: governance / institutional (Non-ferrous industry was a strategic activity in communist period with high mass production on the expense of environmental investments (e.g. filters).)

3.8 Prevention, reduction, or restoration of land degradation

Specify the goal of the Technology with regard to land degradation:
  • reduce land degradation

4. Technical specifications, implementation activities, inputs, and costs

4.1 Technical drawing of the Technology

Technical specifications (related to technical drawing):

Schematic diagram indicating the spatial distribution of Mischantus rhizomes (1 m between plants) - part of the planting technology
Technical knowledge required for land users: moderate
Main technical functions: increase of biomass (quantity), retain heavy metals at roots level
Secondary technical functions: improvement of ground cover, improvement of surface structure (crusting, sealing), improvement of topsoil structure (compaction), improvement of subsoil structure (hardpan), increase in organic matter, reduction in wind speed
Aligned: -linear
Vegetative material: C : perennial crops
Number of plants per (ha): 10000
Vertical interval between rows / strips / blocks (m): 1
Spacing between rows / strips / blocks (m): 1
Vertical interval within rows / strips / blocks (m): 1
Width within rows / strips / blocks (m): 1
Perennial crops species: Miscanthus sinensis gigantheus
Change of land use practices / intensity level: from rotational cropping to mono-cropping
Major change in timing of activities: from land preparation and planting in the first year to only harvesting from year 3 to 15


Petru Ignat, INCDPAPM-ICPA Bucharest

4.2 General information regarding the calculation of inputs and costs

other/ national currency (specify):


If relevant, indicate exchange rate from USD to local currency (e.g. 1 USD = 79.9 Brazilian Real): 1 USD =:


Indicate average wage cost of hired labour per day:


4.3 Establishment activities

Activity Timing (season)
1. Treatment with herbicides month VII -VIII
2. Deep ploughing month X-XI
3. Soil preparation by harrowing month II-IV
4. Planting month III-V

4.4 Costs and inputs needed for establishment

Specify input Unit Quantity Costs per Unit Total costs per input % of costs borne by land users
Labour ha 1.0 102.0 102.0 93.0
Equipment machine use ha 1.0 237.0 237.0 93.0
Plant material seeds ha 1.0 2180.0 2180.0 93.0
Plant material biocides ha 1.0 62.0 62.0 93.0
Total costs for establishment of the Technology 2581.0
Total costs for establishment of the Technology in USD 645.25

Duration of establishment phase: 9 month(s)

4.5 Maintenance/ recurrent activities

Activity Timing/ frequency
1. Harvest month II-III
2. Harvest month II-III

4.6 Costs and inputs needed for maintenance/ recurrent activities (per year)

Specify input Unit Quantity Costs per Unit Total costs per input % of costs borne by land users
Labour ha 1.0 25.0 25.0
Equipment machine use ha 1.0 124.0 124.0
Total costs for maintenance of the Technology 149.0
Total costs for maintenance of the Technology in USD 37.25

Machinery/ tools: MISCANTHUS ETPM4 Planter; MISCANTHUS CRM HARVESTING Cropper; Deep Reversible Plough; Disc Harrows; Sprayers machime; Tractor, MISCANTHUS ETPM4 Planter; MISCANTHUS CRM HARVESTING Cropper; Deep Reversible Plough; Disc Harrows; Sprayers machime; Tractor
The costs are indicated per ha of land where the technology is implemented. The establishment costs are high but after this in the next 15 years the crop requires only harvesting. As part of the National Rural Development Programme, energy crops receive a subsidy of 173 US $ per ha. Prices are for spring 2015.

4.7 Most important factors affecting the costs

Describe the most determinate factors affecting the costs:

The price of rhizomes (seeds) per hectare and harvesting activity involving special machines that cut and chop stems are the most determinate factors affecting the costs.

5. Natural and human environment

5.1 Climate

Annual rainfall
  • < 250 mm
  • 251-500 mm
  • 501-750 mm
  • 751-1,000 mm
  • 1,001-1,500 mm
  • 1,501-2,000 mm
  • 2,001-3,000 mm
  • 3,001-4,000 mm
  • > 4,000 mm
Specifications/ comments on rainfall:

573 mm/year; May and June register the highest amount of rainfall during the year: 85-100 mm

Agro-climatic zone
  • semi-arid

Thermal climate class: temperate

5.2 Topography

Slopes on average:
  • flat (0-2%)
  • gentle (3-5%)
  • moderate (6-10%)
  • rolling (11-15%)
  • hilly (16-30%)
  • steep (31-60%)
  • very steep (>60%)
  • plateau/plains
  • ridges
  • mountain slopes
  • hill slopes
  • footslopes
  • valley floors
Altitudinal zone:
  • 0-100 m a.s.l.
  • 101-500 m a.s.l.
  • 501-1,000 m a.s.l.
  • 1,001-1,500 m a.s.l.
  • 1,501-2,000 m a.s.l.
  • 2,001-2,500 m a.s.l.
  • 2,501-3,000 m a.s.l.
  • 3,001-4,000 m a.s.l.
  • > 4,000 m a.s.l.

5.3 Soils

Soil depth on average:
  • very shallow (0-20 cm)
  • shallow (21-50 cm)
  • moderately deep (51-80 cm)
  • deep (81-120 cm)
  • very deep (> 120 cm)
Soil texture (topsoil):
  • coarse/ light (sandy)
  • medium (loamy, silty)
Topsoil organic matter:
  • medium (1-3%)

5.4 Water availability and quality

Ground water table:

< 5 m

Availability of surface water:


Water quality (untreated):

poor drinking water (treatment required)

5.5 Biodiversity

Species diversity:
  • medium

5.6 Characteristics of land users applying the Technology

Market orientation of production system:
  • commercial/ market
Off-farm income:
  • 10-50% of all income
Relative level of wealth:
  • average
Individuals or groups:
  • individual/ household
Level of mechanization:
  • manual work
  • mechanized/ motorized
  • men
Indicate other relevant characteristics of the land users:

Land users applying the Technology are mainly common / average land users
Population density: 10-50 persons/km2
Annual population growth: 0.5% - 1%
100% of the land users are average wealthy and own 75% of the land.
and own 25% of the land.

5.7 Average area of land used by land users applying the Technology

  • < 0.5 ha
  • 0.5-1 ha
  • 1-2 ha
  • 2-5 ha
  • 5-15 ha
  • 15-50 ha
  • 50-100 ha
  • 100-500 ha
  • 500-1,000 ha
  • 1,000-10,000 ha
  • > 10,000 ha
Is this considered small-, medium- or large-scale (referring to local context)?
  • small-scale

5.8 Land ownership, land use rights, and water use rights

Land ownership:
  • individual, not titled
Land use rights:
  • leased

5.9 Access to services and infrastructure

  • poor
  • moderate
  • good
  • poor
  • moderate
  • good
technical assistance:
  • poor
  • moderate
  • good
employment (e.g. off-farm):
  • poor
  • moderate
  • good
  • poor
  • moderate
  • good
  • poor
  • moderate
  • good
roads and transport:
  • poor
  • moderate
  • good
drinking water and sanitation:
  • poor
  • moderate
  • good
financial services:
  • poor
  • moderate
  • good

6. Impacts and concluding statements

6.1 On-site impacts the Technology has shown

Socio-economic impacts


land management


energy generation

Comments/ specify:

Miscanthus is an energy crop cultivated for generation of heat and biofuels

Income and costs

expenses on agricultural inputs

Comments/ specify:

Usually from year two no agricultural inputs (fertilizers and pesticides) are required. In case of establishment losses, additional planting is needed to achieve the plant density for optimal yields.

farm income


diversity of income sources

Other socio-economic impacts

farm energy independence

Socio-cultural impacts

food security/ self-sufficiency


conflict mitigation


Ecological impacts

Water cycle/ runoff

surface runoff




soil moisture


soil cover


soil crusting/ sealing


soil compaction


nutrient cycling/ recharge


soil organic matter/ below ground C

Biodiversity: vegetation, animals

biomass/ above ground C


animal diversity


habitat diversity

Climate and disaster risk reduction

emission of carbon and greenhouse gases


fire risk


wind velocity


6.2 Off-site impacts the Technology has shown

wind transported sediments


6.3 Exposure and sensitivity of the Technology to gradual climate change and climate-related extremes/ disasters (as perceived by land users)

Gradual climate change

Gradual climate change
Season increase or decrease How does the Technology cope with it?
annual temperature increase well

Climate-related extremes (disasters)

Meteorological disasters
How does the Technology cope with it?
local rainstorm well
local windstorm well
Climatological disasters
How does the Technology cope with it?
drought not well
Hydrological disasters
How does the Technology cope with it?
general (river) flood well

Other climate-related consequences

Other climate-related consequences
How does the Technology cope with it?
reduced growing period not known

6.4 Cost-benefit analysis

How do the benefits compare with the establishment costs (from land users’ perspective)?
Short-term returns:


Long-term returns:


How do the benefits compare with the maintenance/ recurrent costs (from land users' perspective)?
Short-term returns:

neutral/ balanced

Long-term returns:

very positive

6.5 Adoption of the Technology

  • > 50%
If available, quantify (no. of households and/ or area covered):

1 land user family


The farmers receive subsidies provided for energy crops.
There is no trend towards (growing) spontaneous adoption of the technology. The establishment costs are considered high.

6.7 Strengths/ advantages/ opportunities of the Technology

Strengths/ advantages/ opportunities in the land user’s view
High economic value of the crop
Simple agricultural technique
Low-cost of maintenance / recurrent activities
Strengths/ advantages/ opportunities in the compiler’s or other key resource person’s view
This technology allows a sustainable land use of contaminated soils with heavy metals with minimum risk for humans, animals and environment
It is very effective for biomass production with multiple uses: biofuel, animal bedding or cellulose production
Miscanthus sinensis gigantheus is a phytoexcluder with low heavy metal uptake from contaminated soils

6.8 Weaknesses/ disadvantages/ risks of the Technology and ways of overcoming them

Weaknesses/ disadvantages/ risks in the land user’s view How can they be overcome?
High costs for initial establishment. The cost of rhizomes (seeds) represents 85% of total initial investment costs Initial costs could be reduced if a proportion of the crop is used as a “mother crop” for the production of rhizome cuttings
High costs for purchasing special machines for harvesting activity Subsidizing
Undeveloped energy crop market Support for creating local or regional markets for energy crops
Weaknesses/ disadvantages/ risks in the compiler’s or other key resource person’s view How can they be overcome?
Low suitability on lands without phreatic input Selecting sites with good groundwater availability
Relatively long period (three to four years) for achieving a mature yield Maintaining the energy crop subsidies

7. References and links

7.1 Methods/ sources of information

  • interviews with land users
When were the data compiled (in the field)?


7.2 References to available publications

Title, author, year, ISBN:

Barbu, C.H., Pavel, P.B., Sand, C.; Pop, M.R., 2013. Reduced uptake of Cd and Pb by Miscanthus sinensis x giganteus cultivated on polluted soil and its use as biofuel, Environmental Engineering & Management Journal (EEMJ), Vol. 12 Issue 2, pp: 233-236

Title, author, year, ISBN:

Barbu, C.H., Pavel, P.B., Sand, C.; Pop, M.R., 2009. Miscanthus sinensis gigantheus’ behavior on soils polluted with heavy metals, Metal Elements in Environment, Medicine and Biology, Tome IX, Cluj University Press, pp: 21-24

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