Norfolk farmer Bill Lewis will be showcasing his record breaking miscanthus crop at a farm walk on January 28, taking place on his farm in Kings Lynn.
The crop had a record yield this year, and yet it was not quite two years old. Achieving a tremendous 8.82 tonnes per hectare, the result is the largest documented on a second year crop to date.
Typically, the first miscanthus harvest comes three years after planting, and is around half this tonnage. This yield increases each year, to mature crops yielding 12–18 tonnes per hectare for the rest of its 20 year plus crop life.
Visitors will have a chance to view the miscanthus, just before harvest, after its finished senescing (drying out).
“We’re well ahead of our budgeted figures with this increased yield, and the harvest for 2016 should be double this record,” says Bill.
The trend to harvesting just two years post planting is likely to increase, according to miscanthus specialists Terravesta, who are promoting the walk, and offers growers a quicker return.
Bill attributes the bumper miscanthus yield to careful planning, planting preparation and aftercare for the first 12 months after planting. “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. We also erected fencing to ward off rabbits, which can be a threat to the crop early on.
“Under contract with Terravesta we got back £73.80 per tonne, less haulage, and harvested 133 tonnes of crop. We really didn’t expect to be making over of £8,000 in our second year. Next year the yield should double, with thicker canes and more of them. This year we’ve planted another 15 hectares and will plant another four hectares in the future,” says Bill.
Bill utilised the planting package that Terravesta offers, where rhizomes, and a precision planter, are supplied. The farm is also supported with hands on agronomic advice for the duration of the crop’s life.
Andy Lee, Terravesta farms advisory manager, has worked closely with Bill to ensure that the crop establishes well.
“Because it’s a crop that goes on for over 20 years, the first year is crucial to get right to ensure you get the best out of it,” he says.
“The key to a successful crop is good soil and seed bed preparation, and the only other management required is a pre-and post-emergence herbicide application and, if the site is prone to rabbits and hares, the crop needs to be fenced off.
“The land has sun exposure and a good water table, which miscanthus loves, but so do weeds. A professional approach is therefore key. When the soil is well prepared, and our recommendations are adopted, growers will harvest huge success with this energy crop on their land,” adds Andy.
Miscanthus farm walk at Abbey Farm, Kings Lynn, run by kind permission of Bill Lewis and his son Tom.
Date and time: January 28, 10.30am–2.00pm
Address: Abbey Farm, East Walton, Kings Lynn, PE32 1PP
Format: Coffee and registration, followed by a presentation from Terravesta, a tour of the farm and a light lunch