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Field Case Study – ‘Landing Lights’

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  • 3 min read

When the MOD needed to upgrade the landing lights for RAF Scampton it needed to renew and improve the lights on land adjacent to the base, belonging to William Cracroft-Eley. The position of the proposed lights would leave a triangular-shaped area of land of just 2.2 hectares annexed from the main body of the arable field. The size and shape of this new field made it uneconomical to treat as a separate field and also difficult to negotiate with modern machinery, requiring additional time and effort to manoeuvre around the awkward shaped area.

The initial solution to this issue was to leave the new area fallow as a rather considerable field margin, but this would have negligible benefit either financially or ecologically. An alternative solution was to plant Miscanthus on the land, which would bring a number of benefits. As part of the compensation package, the MOD agreed to cover the cost of establishing the Miscanthus and it was planted on the 29th May 2013 and is expected to yield its first harvest in 2015.

This demonstrates how Miscanthus can be used to square awkward fields where, for example, telegraph poles or wet areas leave you with difficult areas to manage, thereby allowing more time and resource to be spent on the more manageable areas. While it wouldn’t make economic sense to do just a 2 hectare block, a number of these blocks added together can justify the investment in planting Miscanthus.

Miscanthus makes ideal use of this 2.2 hectare block of land. While providing an annual income it is also a beneficial strip of game cover, which during the winter months provides much needed shelter, warmth and food (in feeders) for pheasants and partridges alike. Strips of Miscanthus for game cover can be used in very much the same way as maize; larger areas can still be used but it may be necessary to consider cutting rides in it for either guns to stand or beaters to work.

As an energy crop, Miscanthus doesn’t have any feed value, but it does provide shelter and cover and the gamekeeper can determine how to drive it with the positioning of feeders. In addition, badgers don’t pull it up, nor does it lodge like maize.

The main advantages it has over other game crops is that it can also provide you with an income after the shooting season and it only needs to be planted once every 20 years.