The rain has come just at the right time for anyone thinking about planting Miscanthus this spring. With record breaking temperatures in February and over Easter and wall to wall sunshine, farmland was starting to become worryingly dry. Farmers and gardeners across the UK were metaphorically doing rain dances and thankfully the weather has returned to the seasonal norm in the nick of time.
A week of light rain followed by the deluge, courtesy of Storm Hannah, is just what was needed to recharge the soil with moisture and make it more viable for spring sown crops. The planting window for the energy crop, Miscanthus, is up to the end of May so there is still plenty of time to cultivate the land and get a good seed bed ready.
For sites to be established, it is recommended that the field be cleared from grass weeds, cereal volunteers and general broadleaf weeds using a general Glyphosate based product.
The field should be cultivated to a minimum depth of 15cm (7 inches) using first a plough then follow with either a set of discs or a power harrow. This may take several passes on certain soil types, it could require another pass to achieve a better result. If following grassland that contains a “sward” then discing may be required prior to ploughing. These operations are best left until closer to the time of actual planting. No one knows the soil better than the grower, but it is important to remember that as fine a tilth as possible is the target, in order to achieve good soil to rhizome contact during planting.
Rhizomes are normally planted in 1m rows and 0.5m metre spacings, this can be reduced to 0.75m or 1 metre spacings if required. Within 24hrs of planting the seedbed should be rolled and a suitable residual herbicide applied such as Stomp Aqua as soon as possible after rolling. Further weed control is often necessary later in the spring/early summer for polygonum’s, thistles etc and should be arranged in conjunction with an agronomist. Chemicals such as Starane 2 & Jubilee SX are suitable for use before the crop reaches 1m in height.
For more information on planting and rhizome supplies contact Kevin Lindegaard of Crops for Energy Ltd at www.crops4energy.co.uk.
Miscanthus straw bales, chips, pellets and briquettes can all be registered with SFR and used for heat production in Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) accredited boilers. You need a valid emissions certificate for Miscanthus in your boiler. There are also several power stations with contracts for Miscanthus including Brigg, Snetterton and Ely. With rising biomass prices across Europe and the uncertainty associated with Brexit and farm subsidies, it’s a very good time to consider this long term option for adding diversity to your farm.