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Moving to a regime of better business security with Miscanthus

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William Cracroft-Eley outlined why Miscanthus is a robust farm enterprise and a multi-level opportunity for UK farmers, at the Farm Business Innovation Show earlier this month.

“We’re in exciting times, and certainly interesting times. We face high costs and challenging returns from annual crops, Brexit around the corner, and uncertainty over what will replace the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), not to mention the huge threat of climate change,” he said.

“With the move away from fossil fuels, to a bio-based economy, perennial biomass crops are crucial to climate change commitments from the government. According to Defra and the Committee on Climate Change, Miscanthus can be grown on up to 2.4 million hectares of land without any detrimental effect to indirect land-use change.”

William has been involved with Miscanthus since 2005 and Terravesta was set up in 2012. It’s the largest supply chain for perennial energy crops in Europe and works with over 270 Miscanthus growers in the UK. As a Miscanthus grower himself, William understands the pressures on UK farmers, and believes investing in a perennial biomass crop like Miscanthus will benefit farm businesses financially, but also environmentally.

“Land based emissions from agriculture are deemed number three emitter after power stations and road fuel, which the government is already tackling – we’re next!”

“Growing bioenergy crops such as Miscanthus, has the potential to mitigate atmospheric carbon dioxide emissions by storing carbon in the soil. It also reduces emissions of carbon and NOx (nitrogen oxides) into the atmosphere and uses less energy than conventional crops, due to limited inputs and limited tillage, as its planted once and is harvested annually for 20 + years,” he said.

The market for Miscanthus is seeing sustainable growth, and Terravesta is currently expanding with several different end-markets including whole bale power stations – currently supplying Brigg in Lincolnshire, and Snetterton in Norfolk, on long term contracts.

The company is also working with growers to install biomass boilers on the farm, to heat and power the property with home-grown Miscanthus. Other markets include horse and poultry bedding, consumer Miscanthus Briquettes, Miscanthus Heat Logs and Firestarters.

“What’s really exciting is the potential for biorefining Miscanthus, which opens up doors in construction, biofuels, plastic manufacture, and composite materials.”

“Miscanthus offers long-term financial benefits not only in the returns available, but in cost savings, using less horse power, less labour and inputs, therefore moving to a regime of greater business security. It also offers huge environmental benefits, which are becoming more important to our customers, who put some of this responsibility back to the farmer,” added William.