Possibly invasive new bioenergy crop Silphium perfoliatum: growth and reproduction are promoted in moist soil.
The cup plant (Silphium perfoliatum) is a new and promising bioenergy crop in Central Europe. Native to North America, its cultivation in Europe has increased in recent years. Cup plant is said to be highly productive, reproductive, and strongly competitive, which could encourage invasiveness. Spontaneous spread has already been documented. Knowledge about habitat requirements is low but necessary, in order to predict sites where it could spontaneously colonize. The present experimental study investigates the growth and reproductive potential of cup plant depending on soil moisture, given as water table distance (WTD). In moist soil conditions, the growth and reproductive potential of cup plant were the highest, with about 3 m plant height, 1.5 kg dry biomass, and about 350 capitula per plant in the second growing season. These parameters decreased significantly in wetter, and especially in drier conditions. The number of shoots per plant and number of fruits per capitulum were independent of WTD. In conclusion, valuable moist ecosystems could be at risk for becoming invaded by cup plant. Hence, fields for cultivating cup plant should be carefully chosen, and distances to such ecosystems should be held. Spontaneous colonization by cup plant must be strictly monitored in order to be able to combat this species where necessary.