Miscanthus is recommended by the Committee on Climate Change as a crop which helps to offset CO2 emissions, but how practical is it on British farms?
A new research paper, led by Dr Anita Shepherd, research fellow at the University or Aberdeen, has studied farmers’ experiences of growing Miscanthus in the UK, to find out the reasoning behind their choice.
“This study investigates the condition of commercial Miscanthus fields, growers concerns and reasons for growing the crop and also the modelling of a realistic commercial yield,” says Anita.
“It investigates the condition of commercial Miscanthus fields, grower’s concerns and reasons for planting the crop and also the modelling of a realistic commercial yield.”
Anita explains that it highlighted six main reasons for growing Miscanthus:
- Low field maintenance requirement and ease of operation
- Low cost of inputs
- Guaranteed market
- Environmental benefits
- Degraded/problem land
“However, there were other very specific reasons for planting Miscanthus, such as location. For example, some Miscanthus fields were small and awkward; some have restricted access for heavier machinery; while some are situated near villages/playing fields, which makes cereal crops requiring sprays unviable because the land is close to the public,” says Anita.
“A huge part of the study was in conducting conversations with farmers, and the outcome was positive. Farmers showed satisfaction with Miscanthus, even though the reasons really varied.
“The predominant reason for growing it was low field management requirements and low inputs.
“The crops surveyed appear robust to drought, weeds and disease and thrive on both clay and sandy soils,” Anita says.
Anita highlights that wildlife is abundant in these fields and this contributes to the greening of agriculture. It’s also identified that fields are also used for game bird cover and educational tours.
“Observed yield data indicates gradual yield increase with crop age, a yield plateau but no yield decrease since 2006,” says Anita.
Dr Jason Kam, research and development manager at Terravesta, and named author on the paper, is encouraged by the results. “The study is hugely positive, because it officiates what we already know – that Miscanthus has many positive environmental benefits, but also has a strong business case.”
To view the study, led by Dr Anita Shepherd, with Dr Astley Hastings and the team at the University of Aberdeen, please visit https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/gcbb.12690.