Sponsored: Miscanthus - the profitable solution for flood-prone fields

Terravesta explains how Miscanthus can be a worthwhile crop for CLA members to grow - especially on fields which are prone to flooding
Miscanthus crop in flood - Terravesta

As well as offering long-term, consistent income, and environmental benefits on less productive, flood prone or high risk land, Miscanthus is now more affordable and profitable thanks to new Sustainable Farming Incentive (SFI) payments.

Three reasons why Miscanthus is more affordable and profitable:

Payment before the first harvest -

SFI payments of up to £2,645 per year on a 10-hectare Miscanthus crop can be claimed on land classified as a non-horticultural permanent crop.

Quicker return on investment -

The net result of the income from Miscanthus with SFI payments means the break-even point is two years earlier.

Higher average net return -

The average net return for a 10-hectare crop is £930/ha, and this return is retail price indexed, so it goes up consistently each year.

Crop specialist, Terravesta, offers growers long-term contracts to grow and sell the crop, which has an average lifespan of 15 years.

Miscanthus thrives on flood prone land, it stores 2.35 tonnes CO2e per hectare per year, it can help to stabilise flooded soils and receives no cultivation post-plating, bringing biodiversity benefits. The crop requires no fertiliser, and while some weed control is advised during establishment, after the crop is established in year two, it requires minimal to no inputs.

A solution for flood-prone land

Results of a study from the Institute of Biological Environmental and Rural Sciences (IBERS) at Aberystwyth University concluded that Miscanthus can thrive on waterlogged fields, it provides soil stability and crop yield is not affected by excess water.

According to the lead author in the study, Dr Jason Kam, crop quality is not compromised by flooding. “There is no significant difference in yield and other physiological development. Observed height and tiller number have no differences between winter flooded and non-flooded ground.

“Because of Miscanthus’ perennial nature, annual planting is not needed. This therefore reduces soil disturbance to a minimum,” he says.

“The structure of Miscanthus rhizome and root helps to stabilise soils, making it more resilient against flood-caused soil erosion,” adds Jason.

East Yorkshire farmer profiting with Miscanthus on waterlogged land

East Yorkshire arable farmer, Rob Meadley, grows 12 hectares of Miscanthus on varying quality, flood-prone land that previously wasn’t delivering a viable return with arable crops.

Rob planted Miscanthus in March 2012 in good conditions, but this was followed by the wettest April on record, meaning the freshly planted crop was in standing water, and the bad weather hit again in June.

Rob explains that the 2014 harvest was affected by the legacy of flooding and lack of weed control. “Arable crops would never have survived the conditions that the Miscanthus was exposed to, and we didn’t lose any money on inputs. The annual yield quickly recovered, and in 2017 and 2020, we had bumper harvests of over 13t/ha.”

Annual yealds

Ultimately, Rob explains that there would not have been another option for a crop on that land which would have been as profitable. “Back in 2012 when we decided to plant Miscanthus, the principle was looking at the whole farm net margin and identifying the risk in this area.

“It wasn’t performing as well as other parts of the farm and Miscanthus was 100% the right decision for it. The only other option for that land would have been environmental grass, but Miscanthus beats this hands down from a net margin point of view,” he adds.

Crop specialist, Terravesta, offers growers long-term contracts to grow and sell the crop, which has an average lifespan of 15 years.

See what you could earn with Miscanthus