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Bill Lewis

Norfolk arable and sheep farmer

Record miscanthus yield

"We've seen a record yield on our miscanthus harvest, and the crop is not quite two years old. Usually the first harvest isn't until year three. We harvested 8.82 tonnes per hectare, and this figure is the largest documented on a second year crop to date.

"Typically, the first miscanthus harvest isn’t for another year, and the expectation would be for 4.5 tonnes per hectare - around half our yield in year two."

Planning is Key

"In 2013 we made the decision to plant 15 hectares of miscanthus in a field that was historically poor permanent pasture, prone to flooding. We tried growing winter wheat, sugar beet and linseed on it and it all failed.

"It's the sort of land that's difficult to establish crops on, because it's water logged. The land is low lying, at 20 foot below sea level, so the surrounding land drains into it. This meant we were spending a fortune on preparing the seed beds and on inputs. We had 90% miscanthus establishment, and the support we've received from Terravesta has been invaluable. They advised on our herbicide regime, which is very important in the establishment year."

Well ahead of budget

"Under contract with Terravesta we got back £73.80 per tonne, less haulage, and harvested 133 tonnes of crop. We didn't expect to be making over of £8,000 in our second year.

"Next year the yield should double, with thicker canes and more of them. We've also invested during 2015 by planting another 15 hectares and will plant another four hectares following this."

Working with Terravesta

"We utilised the planting package that Terravesta offer, where they supply the rhizomes, a precision planter, and support us with hands on agronomic advice for the duration of the crops life. Andy Lee, Terravesta farms advisory manager, has worked closely with us to ensure that the crop established well.

"The key to a successful crop is good soil and seed bed preparation, and the only thing to follow this is a pre and post emergence herbicide application, and if the site is prone to rabbits and hares, the crop needs to be fenced off. After this it requires minimal inputs, no fertiliser and next to no crop protection. It fits in with the rest of the arable work, and Terravesta are continually growing the market for the crop."

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Farm Facts

Location

King's Lynn, Norfolk

Farm Type

Arable and sheep

Farm Size

470 hectares

Miscanthus Planted Areas

30 hectares

Year Planted

2013 and 2015

Why Miscanthus?

10 Reasons to grow the ‘wonder crop’

1. Best ever price

Miscanthus prices have hit an all-time high, and Terravesta is now offering growers £74/tonne for 2015 contracts. What's more, through its new Barn Bonus scheme, growers whose Miscanthus bales have been stored in a barn and meet the required moisture specification of 16% or less will also be rewarded with up to £2/tonne extra. Don't miss out on the Miscanthus opportunity - sign up now!

2. Guaranteed returns

Boasting low overheads, stable pricing, guaranteed returns and reliable net margins for 20 years or more, Miscanthus offers a degree of financial certainty that almost no other crop can.

3. Reduced planting costs

Terravesta's new on-farm planting techniques and processes have brought down establishment costs significantly. Get in touch today to discuss your options.

4. Minimal maintenance

Once established, Miscanthus is a 'hands-off' crop requiring remarkably low input. It doesn't need fertiliser, chemicals or annual soil cultivation, so you can focus your attentions elsewhere - for enhanced overall production and improved profitability. For everything you need to know about growing Miscanthus, download our Essential Growers' Guide here

5. Maximise marginal land

All farms have less productive areas, but the nature of Miscanthus means it can be grown in poorer quality soil - turning your marginal land into profitable land!

6. Virtually weatherproof

As a moisture demander, Miscanthus flourishes in wet conditions as well as dry. What's more, the leaf mulch it produces suppresses weed growth, acting as a natural weapon against blackgrass

7. Annual growth

Miscanthus is a perennial crop with an annual growing cycle, delivering yearly profits at low inputs. It's also harvested in spring, so it doesn't conflict with other crops

8. Reliable biomass resource

With demand for UK biomass far outstripping its production, the opportunities for Miscanthus as an energy crop are endless. In contrast to the decades newly planted forestry can take to deliver results, Miscanthus produces commercial yields within just three years

9. Grow your own fuel

Any grower with a termed Terravesta contract can buy back Miscanthus pellets as heat on a separate energy supply contract - at a significantly discounted rate - through our Grower Fuel Loop (GFL) scheme. This means making a profit on selling bales, as well as considerable savings on fuel (particularly attractive for on-farm heat requirements)

10. Government backing

As well as pledging to treble investment in clean power generation, the government is actively supporting sustainable heating through schemes like the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI). Demand for biomass is set to increase dramatically as a result, bringing with it an opportunity for Miscanthus growers to reap the rewards now and well into the future

A helping hand

If you have a question about any aspect of Miscanthus growing, get in touch today, or click here to read the Essential Growers' Guide - our ultimate handbook to all things Miscanthus.

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