Give us one reason not to plant Miscanthus
We are hearing from an increasing number of arable farmers who are seriously investigating Miscanthus as an alternative arable cropping option. Whatever the driver behind their search, the question on everyone’s lips is the same: Why should I plant Miscanthus?
There is no single answer – growers are opting to plant Miscanthus for a whole host of reasons, whether it is the security of long-term profits or the proven environmental benefits, and in most cases, it’s both. Growing Miscanthus allows growers to dedicate valuable time and resources to generating improved returns on the productive fields on the farm. Its resilience also means it thrives in a variety of soil types; and can even turn a farm’s most unproductive land into profitable land, with secure RPIX-linked returns for 20+ years.
We’ve put together the top 10 reasons to consider when looking into planting Miscanthus:
- It provides a reliable long-term annual income
With Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) payments due to be completely phased out by 2027, and progressive cuts already taking place each year, Miscanthus offers the buffer of a reliable, long-term annual income, complimenting food production and environmental schemes.
If planted in Spring 2022, the first harvest will be in 2024, where there will be at least a 50% cut in BPS subsidies, and by 2027, the crop should be producing average yields of between 12 – 17 t/ha.
It is generating over £700/ha currently without any subsidies, and the price increases each year with the retail sales index.
- Produces a stable, consistent yield
Terravesta has used long term, retail sales index linked contracts for 10 years now and one of the benefits of a low input, low maintenance perennial crop is that it produces a very stable and consistent yield, offering some economic security on farm as compared with highly commoditised annual crops. This is backed up by our long-term renewable power station contracts.
- Soil health
Scientific studies demonstrate a positive impact of Miscanthus in restoring soil health and fertility through increasing soil carbon and organic matter naturally, re-instating soil life, particularly invertebrates, including earthworms, insects, soil-based organisms and micro-organisms. It reverses the severe soil degradation of intensive food production systems which will enable more sustainable, less depleting and lower cost agricultural regimes in future.
Miscanthus receives little or no cultivation in its 20+ year life span.
- Carbon storage
The first dedicated, independent, peer-reviewed study into the Miscanthus carbon life cycle shows that the crop is net carbon negative, capturing net 0.64 tonnes of carbon (2.35 tonnes CO2e) per hectare, per year in the soil at the very least. As innovations in bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS) become a reality, Miscanthus can play a significant role in CO2 reduction, with the above-ground biomass being capable of absorbing 26 tonnes C02e per hectare per year.
- Water management
Miscanthus can thrive on flood-prone or drought-prone land. It grows on less productive fields which don’t have irrigation, or for that matter, don’t need it. With the way the weather is changing, we need more crops which are going to withstand extreme weather scenarios and this is a very good reason to plant Miscanthus because once established, it will grow every year, whatever the weather does.
Its root structure stabilises and feeds soils, as well as slowing flooding, thereby preventing soil runoff and subsequent sedimentation into our critical waterways. Flooding has no detriment to the crop. Research shows that it not only thrives on waterlogged land, it also helps to stabilise flooded soils, slow water flow and soil erosion.
Minimal chemical application, zero fertiliser, no cultivation over a long period of time and ample leaf litter generated by the crop encourages biodiversity, providing habitat for a wide range of wildlife, including invertebrates, mammals, and birds. Studies have shown invertebrates to have higher species diversity and abundance in Miscanthus fields when compared with existing arable crops. Miscanthus field margins contain a rich diversity of flowers not seen in arable crops, with the crop also presenting a habitat for a wide variety of pollinating insects. Terravesta is currently assessing what size of field would class as a monoculture and where we need to incorporate pollinator strips within crops.
- Financial return on less productive land
Taking high input, low return land out of conventional cropping allows more time to be spent on productive land, while securing a stable secure, long-term income, on a crop which largely looks after itself after establishment.
The Climate Change committee’s report on Land Use Policies for Net Zero identified 0.7 million hectares available within the UK to create a sustainable biomass feedstocks from perennial biomass crops, which would not pose a risk to food production. When unproductive land is taken out of food production, farmers see increased yields and margins on their productive crops, because they are not investing time and inputs into unproductive fields, meaning they can concentrate their efforts on the better land.
Terravesta is also working with a company to create granular plant nutrients from renewable power station Miscanthus ash, as an alternative to carbon intensive fertilisers.
- Low input and blackgrass-busting
Miscanthus receives next to no inputs throughout its life, and no fertiliser. It also out-competes invasive weeds like blackgrass, due to its high canopy, with growers reporting that it has completely removed any blackgrass infestations in long-term crops.
- Growing markets
The now highly competitive cost of sustainable energy has stimulated the development of renewables, such as bioenergy, and the subsequent rapid growth of a global plant-based bioeconomy.
Miscanthus is central to the global bioeconomy, being a core feedstock into existing markets for large-scale heat and power generation. Second-generation markets such as biorefining similarly value Miscanthus for advanced end-uses, including degradable bio-plastics, pharmaceuticals, bio-ethanol and biogas production.
Other energy intensive industries that are actively transitioning towards low carbon similarly value Miscanthus as a substitute to traditional materials, due to its fibrous properties which are already being successfully used in construction, packaging and furniture making.
It is also readily grown for use as highly absorbent livestock bedding.
- Terravesta support throughout the crop’s life
Terravesta supplies the Terravesta Performance Hybrids to plant, as well as planters, which are delivered to the farm, and agronomic advice throughout the crop’s life.
We work with experienced contractors across the UK who are experts in Miscanthus harvesting and baling.
If you want to find out more, please get in touch directly by emailing email@example.com or calling +441522 7318731