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Peter Hicks

Peter Hicks

Northamptonshire arable & sheep farmer

The Story So Far

"We first planted Miscanthus on our farm in 2006. Although the crop was very new at the time and not well known, it seemed to have a lot of promise - both as a fuel source for power stations and as domestic biomass. With wheat prices very poor, we knew Miscanthus would give us better returns, as well as being easier to manage than most arable crops. As we had two marginal fields with clay-heavy soil that was proving difficult to grow anything in, we decided to plant Miscanthus there, as well as on some of our good land. Seven years later, the crop is still thriving in those fields, which make up around a fifth of our farmland."

Why Miscanthus?

"One of the biggest deciding factors for us was the low maintenance nature of Miscanthus. There are just the two of us here, and neither of us are traditionally trained as farmers. We are growing arable crops and have a sheep operation, so we didn't have enough manpower to manage anything too complicated. We're also not getting any younger, so we didn't want anything too intense!"

"Miscanthus fits in easily with our farming set-up; it suits us and it suits our lifestyle. Of course, another important driver was the financial side. It gives us a return from our marginal land, and unlike arable crops, there are no input costs associated with Miscanthus once it's established. It doesn't need to be sprayed, and it's a perennial crop so it doesn't need annual ploughing either. It is financially viable for us and we're making a profit, so it just makes sense for us to grow it."

Working with Terravesta

"We've been working with Terravesta for more than a year now, and we haven't been disappointed so far. One of the main drivers behind our decision to work with the company was its people. Our representative has been excellent - he's a real people person and we feel comfortable with him, which is so important to us. Terravesta also offers attractive prices, which are indexlinked to give us the reassurance we need. As long as we continue to see profits, we will continue to work with Terravesta."

The Future

"Something that stands Miscanthus in good stead for the future is its ability to flourish in marginal land, where it invariably grows better than any other crop would. In fact, we know others who are still planting the crop, and a lot of it is going into marginal land - so there is definitely a growing demand for it. Our message to other farmers with land that's difficult to grow on is: plant Miscanthus! Provided it's put in properly, it will certainly do better than wheat, and we've found it to be a profitable solution for our problem fields. With the wider market signalling a bright future for Miscanthus as a biomass resource, we're also very keen to see how the domestic market for burning the crop develops."

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Farm Facts

Location

Guilsborough, Northamptonshire

Farm Type

Mixed - arable, sheep and Miscanthus

Farm Size

500 acres

Miscanthus Planted Areas

119 acres

Year Planted

2006

Cutting Edge

At Terravesta, our growers are at the core of everything we do. Our team of experts is on hand to offer prospective and existing growers professional, bespoke advice to help them make the most of the Miscanthus opportunity.

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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