Seeking out alternative solutions
"When the battle against blackgrass has been lost, and yields of wheat gets increasingly less competitive, finding an alternative can be tricky.
"Thankfully, after having a good look around, we bumped into miscanthus at the Cereals event and decided to give it a go, planting it for the first time in 2012.
"The 26 hectares we're growing on our 607ha mixed farm near Abingdon, Oxfordshire, was always a challenge, as it takes time for the heavy clay to warm up, and the land is prone to flooding, but miscanthus seems to be doing well, filling out nicely, and improving year on year.
The moisture content came in at a perfect 10 per cent and the first year's harvest reaped 95 bales at 600kg apiece."
Blocking out the light meant the blackgrass disappeared
"Already as the miscanthus is growing, it's dealing with the blackgrass problem because the canopy literally swamps it, and blocks out the light. It really looks as though it's disappeared – something we're really delighted about."
Working with Terravesta
"Our part in the six-year contract with Terravesta is to prepare a well-established seed bed using a deep plough to create a good fine 4ins tilth. We use a power harrow so that we can maximise the rhizome contact, and use a bit of herbicide in the early stages to keep persistent weeds out, and Roundup to tidy the area before the shoots appear.
"Our only problem has been the hares who love the young shoots so electric fencing has been used in parts but it really is only an issue in the early two to three years before the miscanthus takes hold."
Miscanthus just keeps on growing
"The beauty with the crop once it's established is that it'll keep producing year-on- year, with year six being the optimum year. In other words, once the rhizomes are in place, it's just a case of letting it get on with itself over the next 20 years.
"We're looking forward to the next harvest in Spring 2016 when we plan to use a forager with the belly plate off so that the crop falls to the floor where it dries out before being baled up."