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Miscanthus giganteus biomass in spring with a forage harvester

Meet the contractors

Growers do not need to own special machinery or expensive tractors.

Tim Russon, based near Lincoln, collaborates with approximately 60 Terravesta Miscanthus growers spanning from Yorkshire to Suffolk, managing the harvest of up to 1,700 hectares per season. He operates 4 Claas Jaguar 970 forage harvesters, with two of them specifically allocated for Miscanthus harvesting. The season typically extends from January through the end of April. Miscanthus is harvested and baled during the spring months, a period when business is typically quieter for most agricultural contractors. Tim has been involved in Miscanthus harvesting since around 2002.

We undertake the harvest of Miscanthus crops for Terravesta, with entire Hesston bales being directly supplied to Brigg and Snetterton Renewable Energy Power Stations to provide electricity to local homes.
Long time contractor, Tim Russon, Lincoln (UK)

Tim initiated the contracting business in 1989 and has since earned recognition, including the prestigious Contractor of the Year trophy at the British Farming Awards in 2022.

I’m the son of a dairy farmer, and I knew from an early age that I wanted to pursue a career as an agricultural contractor. I borrowed my father’s tractor and tools, and I haven’t looked back since. Contracting has been an integral part of our farm business for many years, evolving from humble beginnings. Following my father’s passing in 2009, the contracting business had expanded to the extent that we focused solely on this aspect.

Regarding Miscanthus, Tim believes it offers numerous benefits.

I see Miscanthus as an excellent opportunity for farmers to utilize less productive land, thereby increasing income. This, in turn, enhances the average yield across the farm and reduces input costs by concentrating efforts on more fertile land. In a wet year like the current 2023 one, accessing the land for harvesting can be challenging, but Miscanthus seems to thrive even in such conditions.

Terravesta collaborates with over 40 contractors across the UK, who specialize in Miscanthus harvesting.

Tim offers the following tips to growers for a successful Miscanthus harvest:

  • Provide a map of the field to guide the contractor.
  • Ensure good access to crops and clearly mark gateways on the map.
  • Ensure the Miscanthus crop is free from obstacles. If present, mark them on the map.
  • Highlight any suspected wet areas on the map.
  • Mark any overhead power lines, especially if they are low.

Miscanthus thrives where most other crops would fail

Graham Watts runs G W Watts Contracting in Northamptonshire, harvesting around 500 hectares of Miscanthus each year in Northamptonshire, Warwickshire and Leicestershire.

A specialist in baling, chasing and loading, his positivity and can-do attitude has seen the business develop and he currently manages eight balers and employs five full-time staff, with additional seasonal workers joining during the summer months.

The harvest of Miscanthus has helped his business by providing an income stream at a typically slower time of year for agricultural contractors. Miscanthus harvesting typically runs from January to the end of April, but in years as wet as 2024 and 2023 it’s likely to extend into May.

Despite the weather delaying baling, Graham is optimistic about the harvest.

We have seen it before and Miscanthus is a resilient crop with a wide window for cutting and baling. Even if the crop is baled in late spring, it’s not a problem. In fact, its robust nature allows for flexibility in harvesting, making it a reliable option for farmers facing unpredictable weather patterns.

If the crop is harvested in May, there may be already some new shoots coming up, but that’s not a problem. Any new shoots that are damaged will be replaced by new growth. It’s only a small number of shoots that will be run on and the crop will cope. Miscanthus thrives where most other crops would fail – it’s very hardy. It’s a crop for the more challenging areas of the farm and once established it will take care of itself.
Miscanthus contractor Graham Watts
Graham Watts, G W Watts Contracting, Northamptonshire (UK)

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