Increase Miscanthus yields with good soil preparation

16th September 2019

Miscanthus is a hardy perennial and is harvested annually after the second year of establishment, for 20 years or more. There’s one chance to plant it, so it’s important to get it right.

“Forward planning is key to securing a high yielding crop and if it’s a new cropping enterprise, it’s advisable to talk to experts and experienced farmers in your area to better understand the steps involved to get the land in optimum condition, before embarking on planting the first crop,” says Terravesta’s head of agronomy, Russell Armstrong.

“Miscanthus, just like any other arable crop, will do better if cultural controls such as the seed bed and weeds are managed well, and seed bed preparation can start in autumn this year,” says Russell.

Russell explains there’s a strong correlation between good planning and a healthy, high yielding Miscanthus crop.

The best crops start life in the planning stage the year before planting and the difference between the best and worst crops can be as much as double the yield each year and every year thereafter.

“With more growers coming on board with Terravesta because of heightened demand for the crop, we’re keen to make sure you get the best outputs from your Miscanthus – and the key to this is preparation,” says Russell.

Outlined below are Terravesta’s top tips for early planning…

Soil preparation                                                                                                              

Miscanthus is an ideal crop for difficult to farm land and even though it thrives on almost any soil type, it’s crucial to prepare the soil well.

Soil needs to be ploughed well in the autumn to allow weathering through the winter to produce a fine tilth the following spring ahead of planting.

If compaction is identified subsoiling should be carried out only when soil conditions at sub-soiling depth allow. If subsoiling is carried out when the subsoil is too wet this can increase compaction.

Planting starts in April and continues through to June. We advise that seedbed cultivations are carried out as close to the planter as possible to retain soil moisture. The prepared seedbed needs to be 4-5” deep with a fine, level tilth. Once planted the field needs to be rolled.

Weed control 

Weed control in the establishment phase of Miscanthus is essential because poor control can hamper the successful development of the crop. It’s vital that fields should be cleared of perennial weeds before any planting takes place.

There are just a handful of post-emergence contact herbicide for use in Miscanthus so using a non-selective herbicide during the months of land preparation is an important part of the weed control strategy. Once planting and rolling is complete the application of a residual herbicide is essential; the only option is Stomp Aqua. Follow-up contact herbicides should be applied in consultation with the Terravesta Agronomist.

It’s important to remember that Miscanthus requires minimal herbicide inputs once established, as it’s vigorousness suppresses annual weeds that may have previously been common in the field, including black-grass.

Nutrition

If you decide to grow Miscanthus, crop nutrition is very basic. Ensure that the soil pH is 6.5 or above and that the P and K indices are 2 or above. You should confirm this in the autumn with a basic soil test and add lime or fertiliser as appropriate. As with any other arable crop it is advised that you re-test the soil every 4-5 years. Contact the Terravesta Planting Team for details of our discounted soil analysis service in conjunction with Yara Lancrop.

Experience has shown that Miscanthus does benefit from the application of organic manures prior to establishment. However, if you are in an NVZ and you are planning to apply organic manures you must take the advice of a FACTS Qualified Adviser to ensure you comply with cross compliance rules.

Miscanthus does not respond to nitrogen and for those in an NVZ the NMax is 0kg/ha so N applications are prohibited.

Other Inputs

Miscanthus does not benefit from the application of any other inputs. It does not require fungicides, insecticides, slug pellets, bio-stimulants, micro-nutrients, or plant growth regulators.

What Miscanthus does require is planning and good husbandry. The number 1 enemy of Miscanthus is compaction both prior to planting and throughout the life of the crop. Ensure the use of machines with good low ground pressure tyres (avoid super singles) set at the correct pressure for the load. Only travel on the field when weather conditions allow and avoid rutting at all costs. If the weather is extreme throughout the harvest window the cane can easily be left standing until the next harvest year. Subsoiling can be carried out during the crop life, however a substantial yield penalty will be paid the following harvest.

Get it right the first time

Miscanthus, just like any other arable crop, will do better if cultural controls such as the seedbed and weed management are top notch.

There’s just the one chance to get it right, and this really isn’t down to luck, it’s down to good planning and proper preparation which must start in the autumn months.

For more advice on Miscanthus planting please get in touch with the Terravesta planting team: 01522 731873.

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