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Terravesta ‘Giant Link’ miscanthus project on display at Cereals

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Now that the busy harvest is over, the Terravesta team is pleased to broadcast the details of our GIANT LINK seed breeding programme, aiming to cut the costs of growing miscanthus by enabling the crop to eventually be grown from seed…

Pioneering miscanthus trials, designed to speed up the growth and development of this in-demand energy crop, will be showcased for the first time at the Cereals event.

The trials are part of the ‘Giant Link’ research project, led by specialists Terravesta, the company behind the growth of this exciting alternative crop. Visitors are being invited on to their stand (number 616), to talk to the experts about the research investment they are making to maximise a lucrative future for miscanthus growers.

They’ll be able to view a ‘snapshot’ of the Giant Link project, showing the new hybrids of miscanthus genotypes growing at different stages of development.

“On our plot we’ve planted trial plugs from 10 centimetres in height (year 1) up to mature 2.5 metre tall crops (year 3),” explains Terravesta chairman, William Cracroft-Eley. “The final aim of the project is to develop hybrids that can be grown from seed rather than from the ‘traditional’ rhizome, and our plot at Cereals will give growers an idea of the work we are doing.

“At the moment, the only way to multiply the plant is by taking root cuttings, and this involves lifting the crop, breaking up the rhizome, and planting it out” says William.

“You can only lift the rhizome every three years, because it needs to recover, and with one hectare of crop providing enough stock to plant 2000ha, it’s land hungry” he explains.

“The hundreds of varieties from Asia that started the trials are now down to just three. Currently, we’re propagating from rhizome cuttings, and cloning the parent plant, but the movement to seed offers the opportunity for a breeding programme, a process that increases efficiency by 200 per cent, and one where we can select all the advantageous traits of the variety.

“The trials on display will show Terravesta’s investment in the new techniques for crop establishment to secure and maximise its future as the leading perennial energy crop,” says William.

The Giant Link project, driven by Terravesta, is also supported by world leading plant breeding science from Aberystwyth University, and the University of Aberdeen, US biotechnology company Ceres Inc, DEFRA, the NFU, E.ON, Biocatalysts and Blankney Estates.

“I’m hugely enthusiastic about the opportunities the project offers” says William. “I believe the outcome will be delivered into commercial production in the next two years, and offers us a very real opportunity to increase the UK growing area from the 800ha we have today, to the potential of 350,000ha in the future.”

At Cereals, experts will be on hand to talk to growers about growing the crop, including Terravesta’s newly appointed head of science and technology, Michal Mos, along with agronomist and farm advisory manager, Andy Lee and their representative in the South West, Mike Cooper.

The Cereals stand will be a hive of activity, with local ale provided by Greg’s Brewery on tap all day, served from a vintage double decker bus. And, to keep visitors energy levels up, an award winning locally reared hog roast will be on the menu.