Climate changes, including chronic changes in precipitation amounts, will influence plant physiology and growth. However, such precipitation effects on switchgrass, a major bioenergy crop, have not been well investigated. We conducted a two-year precipitation simulation experiment using large pots (95 L) in an environmentally controlled greenhouse in Nashville, TN. Five precipitation treatments (ambient precipitation, and-50%,-33%, +33%, and +50% of ambient) were applied in a randomized complete block design with lowland "Alamo" switchgrass plants one year after they were established from tillers. The growing season progression of leaf physiology, tiller number, height, and aboveground biomass were determined each growing season. Precipitation treatments significantly affected leaf physiology, growth, and aboveground biomass. The photosynthetic rates in the wet (+50% and +33%) treatments were significantly enhanced by 15.9% and 8.1%, respectively, than the ambient treatment. Both leaf biomass and plant height were largely increased, resulting in dramatically increases in aboveground biomass by 56.5% and 49.6% in the +50% and +33% treatments, respectively. Compared to the ambient treatment, the drought (-33% and-50%) treatments did not influence leaf physiology, but the-50% treatment significantly reduced leaf biomass by 37.8%, plant height by 16.3%, and aboveground biomass by 38.9%. This study demonstrated that while switchgrass in general is a drought tolerant grass, severe drought significantly reduces Alamo's growth and biomass, and that high precipitation stimulates its photosynthesis and growth.
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