Miscanthus is being increasingly employed as a low maintenance solution for game cover in the UK, due to its perennial nature and its ability to thrive on marginal low-quality land.
Estate manager and game keeper at Settrington Estate in Yorkshire, Michael Booth, planted four hectares of Miscanthus strips for his ‘semi-commercial’ 150-200 birds per day shoot, which is nestled in the Wolds.
“The maize we had before was expensive, and because some of the drives are exposed, the crop would blow over, often in January at the best time in the shoot season, and no cover means the pheasants will all flush at once,” explains Michael.
“We planted Terravesta AthenaTM in May 2020 in 8–10-metre-wide strips to enable the beaters to walk through the gaps. Miscanthus is planted once, it stands for over 20 years if you want it to and there is a secure ‘bale buy-back’ market with Miscanthus specialist, Terravesta, when we harvest the crop each spring.
“Miscanthus is low maintenance after establishment, it doesn’t need any fertiliser and has minimal inputs and after the initial financial outlay, it will take care of itself,” says Michael.
According to Michael, he had some issues with hares early on, which can eat the Miscanthus. “The hares were a factor, and If you have a hare or rabbit problem on your farm, they will go for the Miscanthus, so you will need to think about fencing off the crop or protecting it in other ways, like we did by tubing each plant with spiral protectors. Two weeks after we put these around the plants, the crops were up to knee-height.”
Michael hopes to plant more Miscanthus in future and is encouraged by the look of the crop so far. “If it works as well as we think it will, we will plant more crop for sure. It’s becoming an increasingly popular option for game cover with landowners and you can see why – the low maintenance factor is attractive!”