Norfolk farmer BillLewis (above) has seen a record yield on his miscanthus harvest this year, and yet thecrop was not quite two years old.
Achieving a tremendous8.82 tonnes per hectare, the result is the largest documented on a second yearcrop to date.
Typically, the firstmiscanthus harvest comes three years after planting, and is around half thistonnage. This yield increases each year, to mature crops yielding 12 18tonnes per hectare for the rest of its 20 year plus crop life.
The trend toharvesting just two years post planting is likely to increase according tomiscanthus specialists Terravesta, and offers growers a quicker return.
Were well ahead ofour budgeted figures with this increased yield, and next year it should double,says Bill Lewis.
In 2013 we made thedecision to plant 15 hectares of a field that historically was poor permanentpasture, prone to flooding. We tried growing winter wheat, sugar beet andlinseed, but they all failed.
Its the sort of landthats difficult to establish crops on, due to water logging. The land is lowlying, at 20 foot below sea level, so the surrounding land drains into it. Thismeant we were spending a fortune on preparing the seed beds, and on inputs, hesays.
Bill attributes thebumper miscanthus yield to careful planning, planting preparation and aftercarefor the first 12 months after planting. We had 90% establishment, and thesupport weve received from Terravesta has been invaluable. They advised on ourherbicide regime, which is very important in the establishment year, and wetreated to control twitch grass and meadow grass. We also erected fencing toward off rabbits, which can be a threat to the crop early on.
Under contract withTerravesta we got back 73.80 per tonne, less haulage, and harvested 133 tonnesof crop. We didnt expect to be making over of 8,000 in our second year. Andnext year the yield should double, with thicker canes and more of them. Thisyear weve planted another 15 hectares and will plant another four hectares inthe future, says Bill.
Bill utilised theplanting package that Terravesta offers, where rhizomes, and a precisionplanter are supplied. The farm is also supported with hands on agronomic advicefor the duration of the crops life.
Andy Lee, Terravestafarms advisory manager, has worked closely with Bill to ensure that the cropestablishes well. Because its a crop that goes on for over 20 years, thefirst year is crucial to get right to ensure you get the best out of it, hesays.
The key to asuccessful crop is good soil and seed bed preparation, and the only othermanagement required is a pre- and post-emergence herbicide application and, ifthe site is prone to rabbits and hares, the crop needs to be fenced off.
The land has sun exposureand a good water table, which miscanthus loves, but so do weeds. A professionalapproach is therefore key. When the soil is well prepared, and ourrecommendations are adopted, growers will harvest huge success with this energycrop on their land, adds Andy.