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Renewable Energy 34 (2009) 486491

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Availability of grasses, weeds and leaves as energy resource

Odia O. Osadolor*
Faculty of Engineering and Technology, Ambrose Alli University, Ekpoma, Edo State, Nigeria

a r t i c l e i n f o a b s t r a c t

Article history: The forest and savanna are already denuded of trees, hence this study focused on grasses, weeds and
Received 23 May 2007 leaves as a possible source of sustainable, highly renewable replacement for wood as an energy source. A
Accepted 13 May 2008 study of the availability and productivity of the material across Nigeria showed that it varies from 381 g/
Available online 17 July 2008
m2 a in Gombe, 732 g/m2 a in Ekpoma, 610 g/m2 a in Auchi to 1421 g/m2 a in the Benue-Plateau forest of
Jos area. The turnover rate was, however, positive across the country ranging from 0.097 to 0.130 while
Keywords: the annual incremental yield varied from 26 g to 402 g.
2008 Published by Elsevier Ltd.

1. Introduction importance in the global carbon budget and the fact that they have
the same botanical features [5]. It has been estimated that while
Information about the past, present and future trends of energy tropical forests that are now becoming denuded of trees, store
demand in Africa and most developing countries, though scanty, about 19% of the total carbon sequestered by terrestrial commu-
shows that wood fuels will remain prominent for years to come. In nities each year, tropical grasslands are credited with over 26% [8,9].
all African countries wood fuels have been and will continue to play The full account of the turnover of grasses in estimating pro-
a signicant role in meeting the energy demand for cooking, water ductivity, below ground biomass and of yearly variations in relation
and space heating [14] The increasing trend of wood fuel utili- to climatic uctuations is scantily available. However, the area
zation shall be sustained for a long time as urbanization in most occupied by tropical grassland varies between 15.0 and 24.6 million
African countries implies a shift from fuel wood to charcoal; and square kilometers of the earths surface [810]. In addition, peri-
the low carbonization efciencies of charcoal production processes odically inundated grasslands result from deforestation and con-
mean greater wood demand and consequently greater pressure on stant annual bush re [5,7,1116]. Moreover, grasses and weeds
forest resources [4]. The level of dependent on wood fuels by grow everywhere, around houses, under trees, etc. Often grasses,
African countries ranges between 61% and 86% of the primary en- weeds and leaves of trees around homes are cleared, gathered and
ergy need and from 74% to 97% of the domestic energy needs [3,4]. burnt. The very high rate of regeneration of these grasses, weeds
Wood fuel consumption remains a principal contributor to the rate and leaves shows that it will be more environmentally friendly to
of wood removal in Africa. It is estimated that over 92% of the total use them as fuel as the carbon dioxide that will be released when
wood harvested in Africa goes for energy purposes [4]. It is, they are burnt will be required for their regeneration [1726]. The
therefore, time to consider wood fuel use as a local and global application of these resources as energy materials will reduce the
environmental issue in Africa; while also considering its contri- pressure on the forest and consequently reduce deforestation, soil
bution to the global greenhouse effect. erosion and desertication.
The productivity and uses of wood as an energy resource and for The histology or the structure of the tissues making the organs
other activities have attracted considerable attention, which of different plants and the anatomy of the respective plants
resulted in the development of some wood through hybridization internal structure varies only with the morphological characteris-
and investment in forestry but very little or no attention has been tics. The variation from plant to plant is negligible and can, there-
given to grasses and grasslands [57]. This is despite their fore, be ignored as far as this study is concerned. The leaf is
attened, lateral out growth of the stem or branch, developing
* Tel.: 234 8030700520. exogenously from anode and having a bud in its axil [4,5,7]. The leaf
E-mail address: is, therefore, a partial stem or a branch having limited growth.

0960-1481/$ see front matter 2008 Published by Elsevier Ltd.

O.O. Osadolor / Renewable Energy 34 (2009) 486491 487








Fig. 1. Map of Nigeria depicting the study sites.

In this study, attention is focused on the availability of lower Net primary production (pn) is the total photosynthetic gain of
monocots grasses and sedges, the annual biennial and perennial plant matter by vegetation occupying a unit area of ground [26].
dicots, and the leaves of some higher deciduous dicots, the species This must equal the change in plant mass (DW) plus losses through
densities and regenerative period. The objective of this study is to death (L) [30], i.e.
ascertain that the resources will be available for use as energy raw
material. Pn DW L (1)

2. Methodology
Turnover rate : Kr (2)
This research work was executed across Nigeria, as shown in
Fig. 1, a country located in the West Africa sub-region. where Wy is the annual increment of plant material (g/m2), Wmax is
Some towns across Nigeria were visited in order to nd out the the maximum biomass (g/m2), Kr is the turnover rate (y1), and
availability of the fuel material. They include: Ekpoma, Auchi, Kt 1/Kr is the turnover time in months.
Lokoja, Abuja, Kafanchan, Jos, Bauchi, and Gombe. A plot of land in This is the Dahlman and Kucera method for determining bio-
each of the town was demarcated into 15 units of 1 m2. A unit was mass yield. Annual increment of plant materials is calculated by
harvested annually, another at the end of the second year and summing all positive increment over the years.
another at the end of the third year. The biomass was harvested by Fifteen numbers of 1 m2 pieces of lands were demarcated and
holding them and carefully cutting them 2 cm from the ground. cleared in January 2001 in each site. By January 2002, ve of the
This is the so-called method of stratied clipping. The Dahlman and plots were harvested by the method of stratied clipping 2 cm
Kucera method [2734] was used to determine the turnover rate above the ground. The yields were measured and average taken. At
while the specie density was determined by physical separation. the end of the second year (January 2003), the process was

Table 1
Yield for 2001 across selected sites Table 2
Annual biomass yield (g/m2) across selected sites
Site Yield (g/m )
Ekpoma 732 Study site 2001 2002 2003
Auchi 610 Ekpoma 732 768 840
Lokoja 510 Auchi 610 635 682
Abuja 411 Lokoja 510 532 565
Kafanchan 415 Kafanchan 415 432 468
BukuruJos 1421 BukuruJos 1421 1580 2225
Bauchi 408 Bauchi 408 431 460
Gombe 381 Gombe 381 408 438
488 O.O. Osadolor / Renewable Energy 34 (2009) 486491

Table 3 Table 5
Dry matter accumulation (g/m2) for yr 2002 (Ekpoma) Contribution of species to total yield (Ekpoma)

January February March April May June July Grasses (%) Leaves (%) Dicots (%)
630 700 650 300 145 82 66 Ekpoma 36 13 51
August September October November December Auchi 48 14 38
60 72 98 300 630 Lokoja 56 11 33
Abuja 67 6 27
Kafanchan 68 6 26
Jos 26 31 43
repeated as well as at the end of the third year (January 2004). Also Bauchi 71 4 25
Gombe 76 2 22
by personal interaction with a farmer in Ekpoma, a land that was
use to farm rice and abandoned for 5 years was harvested in similar
manner and average taken.
Table 6 was constructed from two sets of sites. Three sites were
investigated in Ekpoma and two in Auchi. For the site left for 3 years
3. Results in Ekpoma the yield was 840 g/m2 while a forest of unknown his-
tory yielded 3139 g/m2.
Above ground biomass to which this work is restricted, exhibits Applying the Dahlman and Kucera method, the turnover rate of
a seasonal, bimodal pattern, which peaks during the wet seasons. the biomass in the study sites can be computed from Table 2 using
The results of the yield from different sites for 2001 are presented Eq. (2).
in Table 1. Ekpoma
The net primary production of biomass varies across the nation
840  732
and the sub-region. Productivity actually varies from one site to Kr 0:129
another. Ekpoma has vegetation varying from tropical forest 840
(Irhuekpen) with production of 1292 g/m2 yr, the secondary forest while the annual increment is averaging 54 g.
that is mostly around dwelling yielded, 732 g/m2 yr, and the area For Auchi
tending towards the savanna yielded 566 g/m2 yr. While the areas
yielding Synedrella nodiora, Aspilia africana, Sida acuta and 682  610
Kr 0:106
Gomphrena celosioides had a production of 409 g/m2 yr, the area 682
producing Chromolaena odorata yielded 293 g/m2 yr. while the annual increment is averaging 36 g.
Table 2 shows the annual biomass yield across the selected sites And for Lokoja
for three consecutive years. It may be noted that for a site left for 3
years in Ekpoma an increase in yield of 108 g/m2 was recorded. 565  510
Kr 0:097
Auchi recorded an increase in of yield of 72 g/m2 while the forest of 565
JosBukuru yielded an increase of 804 g/m2 at the end of the third
while the annual increment is averaging 27.5 g.
year. It is to be noted that the yield after the rst year is compar-
While for Abuja
atively very high. For example, at the end of the rst year Ekpoma
yielded 732 g/m2 while at the end of the second year it only added 470  411
only 36 g/m2. Similarly, Auchi yielded 610 g/m2 after 1 year and Kr 0:126
635 g/m2 at the end of the second year, while Bukuru yielded
1421 g/m2 at the end of the rst year and at the end of the second and the annual increment is averaging 29.5 g.
year it increased to1580 g/m2, so harvesting annually will be more Kafachan
benecial for the purpose of energy production.
468  415
The dry matter accumulations shown in Table 3 are the mate- Kr 0:113
rials other than green grasses and weeds that are immediately
available for use as fuel. The highest accumulation of 700 g/m2 and the annual increment is averaging 26.5 g.
occurred in February after the long dry season while the lowest was Jos
recorded in August. The fuel raw material is, therefore, abundant in
February. 2225  1421
Kr 0:361
Table 4 depicts the record of the fuel materials that can be 2225
picked up from the ground. The table shows that February has the with annual increment averaging 402 g.
highest record of 287 g/m2 while a mere 50 g/m2 litters accumu- Bauchi
lated for July and August.
In Table 5, the yield was separated and categorized into grasses, 460  408
Kr 0:113
leaves and dicots and the percentage contribution of each was 460
recorded. It may be noted that grasses predominate the sites in the with annual increment averaging 26 g.
Savanna and semi-Savanna (Bauchi, Gombe), while leaves and
dicots dominated the forest and areas around the forest zone
(Ekpoma, Jos).
Table 6
General productivity
Table 4 Location No. of years Yield (g/m2)
Litter accumulations (g/m2) for yr 2002 (Ekpoma)
Ekpoma 3 840
January February March April May June July Auchi 3 682
236 287 206 200 140 122 116 Ekpoma 5 1168
August September October November December Auchi 5 1032
116 122 126 137 140 Ekpoma Unknown 3139
O.O. Osadolor / Renewable Energy 34 (2009) 486491 489

1600 particularly in December, January and February. The amount of

dead vegetation steadily increased from about 66 g/m2 in July
2001 to 651 g/m2 in December 2001 and to almost 700 g/m2 in
1200 February 2002 and this is when the bushes are burnt in Nigeria.
Litter varied between 116 g/m2 in July 2001 and 287 g/m2 in
Yield (g/m2)

1000 February 2002.

The species of the lower biomass varied very widely across the
country as shown in Table 5. The sites in Ekpoma recorded 36%
600 grasses, 13% leaves, and 51% dicots, the Jos sites recorded 26%
grasses, 31% leaves and 43% dicots while the sites in Gombe
recorded 76% grasses, 2% leaves and 22% dicots.
200 Fig. 2 shows the total biomass yield across the study sites. It can
be seen from Fig. 2 that the yield drops from almost 750 g/m2 in
0 Ekpoma to about 380 g/m2 in Gombe. The forest zone of the Benue-
Ekpoma Auchi Lokoja Abuja Kafanchan Jos Bauchi Gombe
Plateau at Bukuru, however, yielded well over 1420 g/m2. The
Study Sites
comparison of the productivity at the different study sites for 3
Fig. 2. Yield at the various study sites. years is presented in Fig. 3. From Fig. 3 the rate of regeneration
depicted by annual and biannual increments suggests that the
materials have positive incremental rate and shall, therefore, be
Gombe available continually all year round as fuel materials. The forest
zone of the Benue-Plateau is again most favoured.
438  381 The dry matter and litter accumulation in Ekpoma for the year
Kr 0:130
438 2002 are depicted in Fig. 4. It can be seen from Fig. 4 that dry
while annual increment is averaging 28.5 g. matter and litter accumulation are high in the months of January,
Also the dry matter accumulation and litter peaks at February February, and March. This period is the peak of the dry season.
making the fuel more available at this time. Also, at this period, harmattan aids the shedding of leaves and
Generally, it can be noted that the turnover rate is positive the drying up of grasses which leads to high yield of dry matter
across the country in spite of the seasonal variations as depicted in and litter. The yield of dry matter and litter begins to decrease as
Tables 3 and 4 all through the year. This shows that the fuel will be from April due to onset of the wet season. The yield of dry matter
available throughout the entire country. The incremental average and litter reaches its lowest level in July and August. The per-
further suggests that it can be domesticated or its yield process can centage contributions of the different materials grasses, leaves
be enhanced. and dicots are shown in Fig. 5. In Jos, leaves are second only to
dicots while it is marginal in Abuja, Kafanchan, and Bauchi, the
contribution of leaves is insignicant in Gombe. The percentage
4. Discussion yield of grasses is high across the study sites except in Ekpoma
and Jos, while the percentage yield of dicots is higher than those
Table 1 shows the fuel materials available across the country. of grasses and leaves.
Table 2 shows the availability or the net primary productivity of The aforementioned data may have a very wide range of spatial
the fuel materials. Using the Dahlman and Kucera method, it can variation. This may be as much as 50%, particularly in the south and
be seen that the turnover rate is positive across the country middle belt. The variation may be due to any one or more of the
over 400 g in the forest zone to about 26 g in the savanna zone. following:
The dry matter and litter accumulation as depicted in Tables 3
and 4 are also encouraging ranging from 700 g/m2 to 60 g/m2 (i) conversion of a forest to a secondary semi-savanna by human
and from 287 g/m2 to 116 g/m2, respectively, in Ekpoma. The activity, animals or natural occurrence,
level of dry material was expectedly higher during the dry season (ii) soil fertility,


Production for year 2001

Production for year 2002
2000 Annual Increment
Production for year 2003
Biannual Increment
Yield (g/m2)




Ekpoma Auchi Lokoja Kafanchan Jos Bauchi Gombe
Study Sites

Fig. 3. Productivity rate of the study stress.

490 O.O. Osadolor / Renewable Energy 34 (2009) 486491


Dry Matter
600 Litter

Accumulation (g/m2)


0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13

Fig. 4. Dry matter and litter accumulation (Ekpoma 2002).

(iii) ora variation and just like the other types of fuel. They were, therefore, sundried for
(iv) dispersal methodology of species. between 5 and 7 days depending on the weather, and then pul-
verized using an attritor grinder, designed and fabricated for the
Anyone or a combination of any of the above may result in C. purpose. The pulverized material was mixed with binding agent in
odorata dominating a full acre while the adjacent acre will be a ratio of 9:1 and then moulded into briquettes of sizes
dominated by Cylindrical africana, etc. The total litter accumulation 325  70  70 mm using a machine also designed for the purpose.
will depend on the trees available and the quantity of the dicots Three types of binding agents, namely: synthetic carpenters glue,
there. starch and resins from locally available plants were used. The bri-
Temporal variation may result from seasonal disparity. Yields quettes take about 3 days to dry in the sun during the dry season.
are usually higher from the middle of the wet season and they may
become very scarce in the far north in the heart of the dry season. 5. Conclusion
Harvesting of the fuel material is by stratied clipping taking at
least 2 cm from the ground. Whereas free harvesting can be done in A number of highly regenerative grasses, weeds and leaves were
the grassland still taking 2 cm from the ground, stratied selective identied as an alternative source of renewable energy. The po-
harvesting must be encouraged in the wooded bush. This is to avoid tentialities of the materials as viable energy resources were
soil erosion and degradation. investigated by determining the availability of the fuel materials
This renewable, highly regenerative resource, here in referred to and the results revealed that the turnover rate of the fuel material is
as lower grade biomass consist of grasses, weeds, leaves, thinning positive across the study sites with rates varying from 26 g/m2 in
branches, tendlings and climblings, forest waste resulting from the savanna to 400 g/m2 in the forest zone. The dry matter and litter
logging, agricultural waste, sawdust and wood shavings. It will be accumulation are also encouraging, ranging from 60 g/m2 to 700 g/
difcult to use these fuel materials in their crude form because m2 and from 116 g/m2 to 287 g/m2, respectively, in Ekpoma. These
combustion and temperature control will be difcult. The materials data may, however, vary widely, with up to about 50%, particularly
will, therefore, need to be processed for maximum performance in the south and middle belt.


Percentage Contribution




Ekpoma Auchi Lokoja Abuja Kafanchan Jos Bauchi Gombe
Study Sites

Fig. 5. Percentage contribution of species.

O.O. Osadolor / Renewable Energy 34 (2009) 486491 491

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