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Last chance to book for out February farm walk

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For those interested in finding out more about the opportunity growing miscanthus presents, it’s the last chance to book for this months miscanthus farm walk. Tewkesbury-based mixed farmer Richard Harvey, will play host to the walk on 23 February.

Change of Venue
The meeting place for the walk will be The Gloucester Old Spot, GL51 9SY. The walk is free of charge, and lunch is provided. It’s a 10:30 start and will finish at around 14:00.

About the grower:

Richard farms a mixed enterprise of arable, including wheat, oilseed rape and beans, and 700 sheep, on 809 hectares.

“Back in 2009 the wheat prices were very low, so I wanted something different to help spread the workload and create new options for the business, making better use of some of the arable land, explains Richard.

“A local miscanthus farm walk was advertised, and I decided to go along to learn about the crop, how it grows, and if we could include it on our farm. I came to the decision to plant 12 hectares in April 2010.

“It’s easy to manage because the crop requires little or no inputs, and it doesn’t interfere with the rest of the farm as harvest is in the spring, not affecting lambing time or cereal harvest.

Richard opted to grow the crop on outlying land and prepared the ground well.

“We ploughed the fields in autumn 2009 and left the land to be covered in frost, which killed off any competing weeds. We then worked the ground with cultivation and power harrowing in the spring, before planting.

“I remember clearly that we planted on a Friday afternoon and Saturday morning, and we then had half an inch of rain on the ground on the Saturday evening. Miscanthus loves moisture, so I think that this was the reason why it established so well, he says.

“Apart from weed control in the first year, we haven’t had any problems with the crop and have just left it to grow. This has meant that labour can be utilised elsewhere, which is providing benefits to the rest of the business.

“It’s easy to manage , because the crop requires little or no inputs, and it doesn’t interfere with the rest of the farm as harvest is in the spring,” he adds. “We achieved an average of 15t/ha on the 12 hectares of land in 2016, resulting in a £9,900 return, which is £825/ha.”

“Miscanthus fits in well with the rest of the arable crops, and we’re now making good money off the land,” he explains.

Richard sells the majority of the bales to miscanthus supply chain specialist Terravesta, but gets a few short bales cut by the contractor to keep on-farm. “We experimented using these small bales in the lambing pens, as we have found them to be very absorbent which is ideal in these conditions. Since then, we’ve used them every year,” he adds.

“If you’re looking for an easy, profitable and alternative crop to incorporate into the business, I would definitely recommend miscanthus. It requires little inputs, still providing a substantial payout, and can easily slot into any farm set-up.”

Richard has worked closely with Terravesta since 2010, which organises the supply of rhizome to plant the crop, and buys back the bales for growing markets such as power generation and bedding. The company offers long-term, index-linked contracts.