Advising and growing
"I've been interested in miscanthus since it was introduced by Government to the UK as an energy crop in the 1980s, when it struck a chord with me. And I've been passionate about it ever since.
"We currently grow miscanthus for rhizome production, (rhizome propagation) to generate new plantations of true energy crop, while Terravesta buy the harvested cane.
"I also work with the Terravesta team, and provide growers with practical agronomic advice and with my experience in growing it, I can give hands-on, workable solutions to ensure farmers get the best from the crop."
Making a profit
"We primarily grow miscanthus for rhizome production, which means the yield on the crop is less than you would expect, because it's planted at such high density.
Despite this, we average about 10 tonnes per hectare (on surplus land not harvested for rhizomes) of the harvested cane, which is supplied to Terravesta each year.
This yield gives the company an average gross margin of circa £400 per hectare, per year, after harvesting costs. Which contributes significantly to the business's bottom line.
"We could feasibly harvest over 12 tonnes per hectare or more if we didn't prioritise rhizome production. This would not cost much more, and we could comfortably then make a return of over £500 per hectare with this extra yield.
Simple practices like thinning out the crop will ensure growers meet target yields."
Miscanthus to complement arable production
"Miscanthus is a key player in balancing the food energy debate, as it complements arable production by an efficient sustainable energy balance.
You need less acreage to grow the crop, and it yields well. And you can plant it on poor grade land that's difficult to produce cereals crops on, particularly land that's prone to flooding or has blackgrass issues.
You plant the crop once, and yields keep on improving year-on-year. The annual harvest gives a reliable income to the farmer, with minimal inputs required over the 20 year crop cycle.
"There's a secure long-term future for miscanthus, and where arable growers are looking at other options for less productive land, it's a viable solution."
Soil health and carbon savings
"Miscanthus has a crop life cycle of over 20 years, in which time the soil experiences no tillage, just an annual harvest. So the soil can maintain a profile that promotes colonisation of beneficial microbes and creatures such as earthworms, which also results in improved soil structure.
"The rhizome recycles nitrogen and most other essential nutrients from the stems before harvest so no fertiliser needs to be applied to achieve the expected high yields. Growing miscanthus for fuel is very energy efficient.
The crop is carbon neutral, as it takes up as much carbon (plus some) as is released when it's burnt so there is no net increase in CO2 into the atmosphere. And some additional carbon is sequestered in the soil from root and rhizome growth."