Menu

Mike Cooper

Advisor and grower group director

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."

< >
prev next

Farm Facts

Location

Somerset, Lincolnshire, Staffordshire

Farm Type

Arable, some mixed farming

Miscanthus Planted Areas

348.92ha (862.21 acres)

Year Planted

Various from 2006

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.

Grower Information

Cutting specification Useful contacts Guidelines for contractors
get in touch sign up to our newsletter