Open day at East Walton farm focuses on ‘power crop’ miscanthus

Abbey Farm East Walton A walk being held for farmers to look at the crop" Miscanthus which is used for burning in the UK power stations. Pictured in front FLtoR Jacob Duce (Marketing Manager Terravesta) Bill Lerwis (Abbey Farm) Tom Lewis( Abbey Farm) William Cracroft-Eley (Chairman Terravesta) with other farmers
Abbey Farm East Walton A walk being held for farmers to look at the crop" Miscanthus which is used for burning in the UK power stations. Pictured in front FLtoR Jacob Duce (Marketing Manager Terravesta) Bill Lerwis (Abbey Farm) Tom Lewis( Abbey Farm) William Cracroft-Eley (Chairman Terravesta) with other farmers

Visitors on a farm walk held in East Walton were able to find out more about the growing demand for a crop which is burned by UK power stations.

More planting of the biomass crop miscanthus is needed to supply the power stations and the open day held at Abbey Farm last month was aimed at farmers to provide information about growing, harvesting and the potential yield.

Miscanthus is a perennial energy crop that grows up to 12ft tall and can yield 15 tonnes per hectare, giving the farmer a return of more than £900 per hectare from a mature yield.

Arable farmer Bill Lewis and his son, Tom, talked about how growing miscanthus on less productive farmland had worked for the farm business and team members from miscanthus supply chain specialists Terravesta, outlined the lifecycle of the crop as well as harvest best practice and timings.

Terravesta chairman, William Cracroft-Eley offered planting advice, informed delegates on the machinery commonly used, gave an update on the limited inputs required, as well as financial returns from the crop.

Delegates had the chance to see the crop at the early stages of regrowth in the field, which was already approximately two feet high, thanks to a recent spell of rain. To supplement this, one of Bill’s barns was full of this year’s miscanthus harvest that was baled and ready to be transported to the end market.

There was also a lot of interest around the range of different markets that Terravesta has secured for the crop, especially the company’s newest contract with Snetterton renewable power station, which is less than 40 miles from the farm.

As miscanthus is harvested in the late winter or early spring, delegates were keen to hear how they could get harvesting machinery onto the land when it’s normally too wet to work on.

William explained that miscanthus leaves a natural matting on the ground, from the fallen cane, and the crop’s sub surface rhizome bed also improves soil cohesion, and therefore structure. Machinery fitted with low ground pressure tyres also helps to minimise damage to the land.

Bill explained that he decided in 2013 to plant 15 hectares of a field that historically was poor permanent pasture, prone to flooding.

“It’s the sort of land that’s difficult to establish crops on, due to water logging. The land is low lying, at 20 feet below sea level, so the surrounding land drains into it.

“We had 90% establishment, and the support we’ve received from Terravesta has been invaluable. They advised on our herbicide regime, which is very important in the establishment year, and we treated to control twitch grass and meadow grass.”