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Peter Hicks

Mark Richardson

Pub owner, arable and beef cattle farmer

Diversification key to sustainable farming

"I'm always open to considering alternative areas of growth for the farm business. On our 1,250 hectares of land, we farm miscanthus, arable crops and beef cattle, and we also run a successful local pub, called the White Horse.

"Diversification is an integral part of farming - especially with ongoing commodity price volatility. And, when you've tried different cereal crops to combat establishment issues, it's reassuring to know miscanthus is a profitable alternative that solves the problem."

Solution to dry land with blackgrass resistance issues

"We grow miscanthus on 'problem land' that was formerly in an arable crop rotation. Before miscanthus, it had establishment limitations because of blackgrass resistance, plus it's prone to drought.

"We've been successfully growing miscanthus on the land since planting 18 hectares of the crop in 2012."

Excellent establishment down to good preparation

"We listened to Terravesta's planting recommendations, and our miscanthus crop established well because we put a lot of work into ensuring the fields were prepared for planting. We ploughed them in the autumn, and waited for a warm dry spell the following spring, when we cultivated the soil well to make a good seed bed.

"After establishment, the only thing that's required is a robust herbicide programme, and here Terravesta's advice is invaluable. There is no sign of blackgrass, because the high canopy of the crop out-competes it."

Reaping the rewards of best practice

"Usually the crop is harvested three years after it's planted, but we harvested ours in year two, during 2014. We harvested approximately 5.5 tonnes per hectare then, I believe this is down to good preparation for a successful establishment. In 2015 the yield doubled to 11.5 tonnes per hectare."

"The crop is on contract to Terravesta, who pay approximately £74 a tonne. My margin last year was around £618 per hectare, which I'm pleased with, considering ongoing market price instability. The return is also index-linked, and because crop yields go up each year, this pay-back should increase."

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Farm Facts

Location

Baston, Peterborough

Farm Type

Arable and beef cattle

Farm Size

1,250ha

Miscanthus Planted Areas

18ha

Year Planted

2012

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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