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Miscanthus is an ideal habitat for brown hares

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The environmental credentials of miscanthus are further boosted in a new study, which suggests the crop can support hare populations.

Once established, the crop can act as a valuable habitat for the brown hare, according to research.

“While we know rabbits and hares can be a problem for miscanthus during establishment, its great news for mature crops,” says Michal Mos, Terravesta head of science and technology.

“On establishing crops, if rabbits and hares are a problem, the advice is to fence the crop to stop them damaging it,” says Michal.

“Once mature – the study has found that the hares never feed on the grass, but like to sleep in it during the day because they are nocturnal.

“Because no herbicides, fungicides or pesticides go into miscanthus, and little maintenance is required – a mature crop has been proven to provide a safe haven for hares,” adds Michal.

Dr Silviu Petrovan of the conservation science group at the University of Cambridge carried out the research.

“What we strongly suspect is that these areas of miscanthus are very good at replacing lost diversity in the farmland,” he told BBC News.

“If you have a single block of miscanthus with arable land and grassland fields in the vicinity (mixed farmland) it offers really high-quality habitat for brown hares.”

The numbers of brown hares have declined in the UK over the past decades, though they are still common in some areas.

The research is funded by the wildlife charity, People’s Trust for Endangered Species (PTES), and published in the European Journal of Wildlife Research.