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Growing miscanthus from seed

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  • 3 min read

What is the GIANT link project?

The GIANT Link project is a ground-breaking research and development initiative that’s enabling us to cultivate hybrids that can be grown from seed, rather than from rhizome.

Since 2013, Terravesta has been proud to be commercial partners in this exciting £6.6 million BBSRC/ DEFRA funded project. We’re working closely with world leading plant breeding scientists from Aberystwyth University, Lifecycle Carbon, and yield potential modellers from the University of Aberdeen, together with plant breeders, Ceres Inc, E-on, Blankney Estates and Biocatalysts Ltd.

The GIANT Link project, ending in 2016, will ultimately deliver ground breaking scientific advancement in techniques for successful hybrid development and production in miscanthus.

Because of its success, we, and our colleagues from Aberystwyth University, chose to showcase the work for the first time at the Cereals event this year, attracting tremendous interest.

What’s next?

The next phase, from 2016, is to attract the funding to take the best of these seed-based hybrids up to commercial scale.

What will seeds offer that the current rhizome propagated Miscanthus giganteus (Mxg) doesn’t?

Crucially they will offer the ability to ramp up area to a significant scale to enable perennial energy crops (PEC’s) to be considered a policy option towards 2050 greenhouse gasses and climate change targets.

Currently 1ha of rhizome lifted will plant circa 13ha of new crop, whereas 1ha of seed production will plant 2,000ha of new crop.

We hope that they will deliver as good, or better, return on farm as Mxg, although Mxg under the current rhizome management and planting regime has proven to be very robust, with the best Terravesta contracted crops reaching 17t/ha.

Looking to the future, seed offers the opportunity for developments through plant breeding to enhance or reduce traits, and even introduce new ones.

This will mean that new markets for the crop will continue to develop. The crop can be adapted to be the source for a number of other bio-products. And more than one bio-product can be refined from the same crop, from ethanol to packaging and pharmaceuticals to cosmetics’ with a very pure lignin residue going to heat or power generation.

Should you be planting now?

Yes. In reality, these new technologies are 3 – 5 years away from roll out, by which time your 2016 planted Miscanthus giganteus, benefiting from very well developed and reliable agronomy, will be delivering full-swing.

If the new varieties and markets are so much better, you can convert or plant more, if the difference is marginal, then you’ll have lost years of production by waiting. The opportunity and Mxg agronomy is good today – that is why, excited as I am by the science and the future, (although frustrated by the blackgrass), I’ve planted a further 40ha this year.