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Early planning key to successful crop establishment

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  • 3 min read

With miscanthus there’s a strong correlation between good planning and a healthy, high yielding crop.

It’s in no way a coincidence, that with all the miscanthus I’ve looked after in many different countries, the best crops started life in the planning stage the year before planting. The worst crops were the ones decided upon at the last minute, and invariably went into less than adequate seed beds.

The difference between the best and worst crops can be as much as double the yield, each year and every year thereafter.

My top five tips for early planning are important to implement now:

1) Commitment

Make the decision to grow miscanthus and commit to it. Be bold and don’t sit on the fence, letting another crop take precedence. If you leave it to the last minute, your crop yields might be compromised. Do it once. And do it right.

2) Soil preparation

Miscanthus is an ideal crop for difficult to farm, marginal land. And, even though it thrives on almost any soil type, it’s crucial to prepare the soil well, as soon as possible.

Heavier clay soil needs to be ploughed now to achieve a nice tilth in the spring, with help from winter frost that will break down the soil further, leaving your soil finer.

If heavy or light land needs subsoiling, the operation will be far more successful if done at this time of the year, when the soil is dry.

3) Weed control

Light sandy and gravelly soils can throw up a lot of perennial weeds and volunteers. If you plan now, you’ll be able to apply a few applications of Roundup in good conditions with better results.

Weed control in the establishment phase of miscanthus is essential because poor control can hamper the successful development of the crop. It’s vital that fields should be cleared of perennial weeds before any planting takes place.

But it’s also important to remember that miscanthus requires minimal herbicide inputs once established, as it suppresses annual weeds that may have previously been common in the field, including blackgrass.

1) Inputs and soil sampling

If you decide to grow miscanthus, there’s no need to be ordering seed and fertiliser as you would other crops, because there are minimal, and commonly no inputs.

If a soil sample is taken now, nine times out of ten, no additional nutrients such as phosphate or potash need ordering, and the crop doesn’t require nitrogen applications. Miscanthus has little or no need for applied fertiliser, and this can be confirmed by a basic soil test.

2) Get it right the first time

Miscanthus, just like any other arable crop, will do better if cultural controls such as the seed bed and weed management are tip top.

The advantage of Miscanthus is that you only plant ONCE, this can easily become a disadvantage if done poorly. There is no second chance, as with wheat, for example.

There’s just the one chance to get it right, and this really isn’t down to luck, it’s down to good planning and proper preparation which must start now.