5 benefits of...
Not only is Miscanthus an ornamental grass species, it is also a high yielding energy crop, growing more than three metres tall. It produces a crop every year without the need for re-planting and thanks to wider benefits, has the potential to play an important role within regenerative agriculture. Mark Coleman, Customer Accounts Manager from Miscanthus specialists Terravesta, explains why Miscanthus is becoming hot property.
Miscanthus is great for soil and water health. It’s been proven to naturally increase soil carbon and organic matter, which is important in fostering overall soil health and fertility. It naturally restores life, particularly invertebrates such as earthworms – the key to healthy soils. One reason for this is that Miscanthus receives little or no cultivation during its lifespan.
It has no tap root, instead the hair-like roots of Miscanthus stabilise and feed soils, as well as reduce the risk of flooding, associated erosion and soil run-off. This is important to protect our critical waterways and surrounding communities.
Simply put, Miscanthus is a carbon negative crop. This is more important than ever given agriculture’s quest to achieve Net Zero. An independent study quantified this, showing that the root rhizomes of Miscanthus capture at least net 0.64 tonnes of carbon (2.35 tonnes CO2e) per hectare, per year into the soil.
Excitingly, the above ground biomass has a lot to offer too in this area. As it grows, Miscanthus absorbs the equivalent of 26 tonnes of CO2 per hectare each year. This of course offsets the emissions associated with burning the crop for renewable energy purposes.
Miscanthus provides a haven for wildlife. This is because it needs minimal plant protection products, zero fertiliser and no cultivation, whilst generating ample leaf litter. Collectively, this provides habitat for a wide range of wildlife such as invertebrates, mammals, birds and crucial pollinators. Studies have shown greater invertebrate species diversity and abundance in Miscanthus fields, compared to conventional arable crops.
Energy vs food crops – an important debate. The Climate Change Committee’s report on Land Use Policies for Net Zero identified a potential 0.7 million hectares suitable for perennial biomass crops in the UK, that don’t pose a risk to food production.
Taking unproductive land out of food production aims to improve the efficiency of farming systems as a whole, because it allows farmers to reallocate valuable inputs and time into productive land that yields. Miscanthus’ role isn’t to ‘steal’ productive land, it’s to make the most of unproductive areas.
Miscanthus is central to the global bioeconomy, being a core feedstock into existing markets for large-scale heat and power generation. But we’re now seeing second-generation markets such as biorefining for advanced applications, including degradable bio-plastics, pharmaceuticals, bio-ethanol and biogas production.
Also, thanks to its fibrous properties, the crop can be used a substitute to traditional materials in industries such as construction, packaging and furniture making. We are fast seeing new and innovative ways to make the most of Miscanthus.
Terravesta is leading the BEIS-funded OMENZ project – Optimising Miscanthus Establishment through improved mechanisation and data capture to meet Net Zero target. The project recently secured Phase 2 funding from the Biomass Feedstocks Innovation Programme, part of the Net Zero Innovation Portfolio (NZIP).
For information about OMENZ click here.
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