Preston Farms near Basingstoke, Reading, has a whole farm approach to sustainability which stems from a long tradition of environmental and conservation measures. Two years ago, the farm introduced 40 hectares of Miscanthus to complement its regenerative farming ambitions.
Owned by siblings of the Sainsbury family, the estate is hosting a farm walk with Miscanthus specialist, Terravesta, on 26th May 2022, to showcase the crop to other interested farmers.
Preston Farms is 800 hectares and crops 650 hectares with a wide and diverse rotation, and the farm team has been operating zero-till practices for the last two years. “The introduction of Miscanthus allows us to answer many questions asked of British agriculture regarding land use. Miscanthus coupled with several higher tier options has allowed us to turn high risk – low reward land in the arable rotation into consistent and secure income while enabling us to prepare for new opportunities as carbon budgeting tools and markets develop,” explains head of farming Craig Livingstone.
Craig says Preston Farms and its sister farm Lockerley estate feel that Miscanthus fits the overall objectives of the business. “This is to enrich and enhance our soils, to deliver net zero carbon farming, to create a more biodiverse estate, to be a profitable farming business and develop our social responsibility within our local and wider communities.”
The Miscanthus is planted on heavy clay land with inconsistent net margin potential from the arable rotation. “Before Miscanthus, the fields could cost us as well as make us money, the Miscanthus is thriving here and Phil Benson contracting harvested and baled it have commented how strong it looked for a first harvest,” says Craig.
Craig explains that the soil was prepared before the Miscanthus went in and Terravesta supplied the rhizomes and planter, while the farm provided a team to plant the crop. “Establishment was straightforward, and where the rhizome didn’t take in year one, it’s filled out in year two. It’s a healthy crop and was 9ft tall in some places before being cut this year.
“The Miscanthus has helped us to spread risk, because we receive an income each year from the harvested crop, which is baled and sent directly to whole-bale renewable energy power plants to generate electricity for local homes,” adds Craig.
Preston Farms and Terravesta are co-hosting a farm walk to let other farmers in the region learn about profiting from Miscanthus growing.
Farmers considering planting the carbon negative crop Miscanthus can now benefit from a finance package to cover virtually all upfront costs for crop establishment, as well as new direct, long-term offtake agreements with end-users, with 10–15-year index-linked annual returns.
Under the new contract, Terravesta will supply its Performance Hybrids, planting equipment and agronomy throughout the crop’s life, ensuring successful crop establishment by committing to a minimum number of plants emerging under its new planting promise.
About the Miscanthus farm walk:
Farm walk host: Farm manager, Craig Livingstone
Date and time: Thursday 26th May, 9:30am – 11:30am
Location: Basingstoke, Reading
Catering: Complimentary teas, coffees, and pastries