More than £3m has been awarded to encourage planting of the perennial bioenergy crop miscanthus – and help the UK meet net zero targets.
The funding was awarded to miscanthus specialist Terravesta through the government’s Biomass Feedstocks Innovation Programme. Terravesta hopes to improve crop establishment – including field preparation, new planting techniques and monitoring growth in the field.
Miscanthus rhizomes below ground and decaying leaf litter fixes and stores 2.35 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent per hectare annually as the grows, says Terravesta science and technology director Michael Squance.
“The first dedicated, peer reviewed study into miscanthus life cycles shows that the above ground biomass grows annually and recycles all the carbon that’s been produced through planting, harvesting, and burning the crop for renewable electricity.”
The first phase of the Terravesta project looked at field preparation, machinery, technology and planting techniques. The second phase, which runs until 2025, will develop innovative techniques to improve miscanthus planting and establishment.
Terravesta head of research and development Jason Kam says the first area of focus is improving the quality of miscanthus rhizomes when they come out of the nursery, This will include seed development, and biological treatments and crop nutrition to help plants grow better.
“The second focus area is site preparation, where we will look at retaining moisture, reducing tillage and improving soil health.
“Streamlining planting processes is an exciting part of the project, where agri-tech will be used to plant more crops in a shorter space of time.”
Monitoring establishment of the crop will help improve its overall performance, says Dr Kam.