Miscanthus project receives additional funding

The second phase of a project that investigates optimising Miscanthus establishment can now go ahead, thanks to more than £3.3 million of BEIS funding.

OMENZ (Optimising Miscanthus Establishment through improved mechanisation and data capture to meet Net Zero targets) is led by Miscanthus specialist Terravesta, who has now been successful in the bid to secure Phase 2 funding from the government’s Biomass Feedstocks Innovation Programme.

Phase 1 successfully analysed the entire establishment pipeline of Miscanthus including approaches to producing planting material, field preparation, machinery and techniques for planting, and technologies used to monitor early-stage growth.

For Phase 2, Terravesta, alongside project partners, will trial a range of new automation technologies, as well as utilise drones and machine learning to quantify the crop’s establishment.

Dr Jason Kam, Head of R&D for Terravesta, said: “There are four areas of focus for OMENZ, the first is planting material production preparation to improve the quality of rhizomes when they come out of the nursery, investigate Miscanthus seed development, and test biological treatments and crop nutrition to help the plants to grow better.

“The second is site preparation, where we will look at retaining moisture, reducing tillage and improving soil health. Then, we aim to streamline planting processes, where agri-tech will be used to plant more crops in a shorter timeframe.

“And finally, establishment monitoring will test drone agronomy, remote sensing and data capture, to improve crop performance.”

OMENZ is a collaborative partnership between Terravesta, Crop Health and Protection (CHAP), Cranfield University, Energene Seeds Ltd, Liverpool John Moores University, TJSS Ltd, Ystumtec Ltd and University of Lincoln.

The overall aim is to facilitate greater planting of perennial bioenergy crop Miscanthus, increasing the capacity of agriculture to further contribute to net zero targets.

CHAP will continue to oversee the project management of OMENZ throughout Phase 2. CHAP Research Associate, Dr Jemma Taylor, said: “This is excellent news for OMENZ and we’re delighted to be continuing our partnership with Terravesta and the project consortium.

“Increasing biomass feedstock production in the UK is a positive step towards supporting agriculture in its commitment to achieving net zero.

“It will be exciting to see how far we can take the optimisation of Miscanthus, and therefore make it more viable for UK farmers.”

The Biomass Feedstocks Innovation Programme is funded from the BEIS Net Zero Innovation Portfolio (NZIP) along with 11 other projects, for more details please see the BEIS website: Biomass Feedstocks Innovation Programme – successful projects