The Story So Far
Flagleaf Farming's three founders made the initial decision to plant Miscanthus on some of their poorest land more than seven years ago, when falling wheat prices and poor yields from difficult-to-farm areas left the business looking for a viable and more secure alternative to combinable commodity crops. We'd tried various other arable options on some of our worst-performing areas, and found we were dedicating a lot of time, effort and money to high-risk land, with consistently disappointing results. As Miscanthus flourishes in both heavy wet soils and free-draining soils, as well as areas with a rock base (which causes rooting and drainage problems), it provided the ideal solution.
As a joint venture contracting business, we don't receive the Single Farm Payment or other grants, so every crop has to be worth the risk and make absolute financial sense for us to turn a profit. Unlike other crops we have tried, Miscanthus lets us generate secure returns from problem land, doesn't conflict with other crops and fits well into our routine. It also frees up time and manpower that we invest in improving productivity elsewhere.
Because it is a hands-off, low-maintenance crop, we have been able to plant it on any areas that are harder to access regularly - including a field that the local RAF uses for its landing lights! Planting the crop on our most marginal land ultimately means that we've been able to focus valuable time and resource elsewhere - which has, in turn, improved overall yields and allowed us to take on more outside work.
Working with Terravesta
After some initial challenges with establishment in the early days, developments in planting techniques and support from the Miscanthus experts at Terravesta means our Miscanthus is now delivering impressive annual profits for Flagleaf. Because we have a long-term contract with Terravesta, we also have a guaranteed market for all of the in-spec Miscanthus we can produce, which gives us great peace of mind. Knowing the prices are index-linked offers an even greater level of security.
At Flagleaf, we are extremely positive about the future for Miscanthus. Having planted just 6% of our contracted area with the crop, we have been consistently impressed with the results, and are planning to plant more in the near future. Even with its typical three-year establishment period, we know we are better off planting Miscanthus than trying to get similar returns from other, high-input, high-risk crops - and the long-term financial security it provides is virtually unrivalled.