Energy crop miscanthus is ‘key’ contributor to lowering carbon emissions, agri-renewables event will be told

Miscanthus growing in flood water.

Miscanthus growing in flood water. - Credit: Archant

Energy crop miscanthus is a “key” contributor to lowering carbon emissions, an agri-renewables event will be told next month.

George Robinson, managing director of Lincoln-based miscanthus supply chain firm Terravesta, will be making the environmental and economic case for growing miscanthus the crop at The Energy Now Expo converence, which takes place on February 11 and 12 at Telford International Centre in Shropshire.

Speakers also include National Farmers’ Union vice-president Guy Smith, of Clacton, who will open the conference.

With the agricultural sector accounting for 24% of total independent renewable projects in the UK, farmers are key contributors to mitigating climate change, Terravesta argues.

It cites a bioenergy report published by the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) in December which showed that 122,000 hectares of agricultural land was used for bioenergy in the UK in 2014. Miscanthus accounts for 6% of this, amounting to around 7,000 hectares.

It also points to an academic paper published in autumn last year which found a number of environmental benefits to converting 5% of lower grade, UK marginal land to the crop, which is grown for energy and used for heat and electricity.

The academic paper concludes that, taking into account the potential to sequester carbon in soils, the reduced nitrous oxide emissions and the mitigation of fossil fuel use by using miscanthus as a bioenergy feedstock, the carbon intensity is one thirtieth of that of coal, and one sixteenth of natural gas from the North Sea, and will contribute to supporting the Government’s climate change emissions targets, it says.

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“As well as the environmental benefits attributed to growing miscanthus, there’s a good financial case for it, and it can help boost food production on farm. This is the case I’ll be presenting to farmers at the Energy Now Expo conference on February 10 and 11,” said Mr Robinson.

“In light of volatile cereal prices, and the need to maximise returns from all available land, miscanthus is a viable solution. The talk will explore how growing the long term perennial crop provides a profitable income, with minimal inputs, meaning food crops can be better managed, and growers can ‘work smarter not harder’.

“Growing this perennial energy crop offers greater security of high annual net margin than almost any other crop, while reducing working capital and overhead costs.

“Miscanthus requires minimum inputs and typically delivers high annual yields (currently delivering 12- 18 tonnes per hectare from well-established crops) and delivers consistent returns from contracts with Terravesta for 20-plus years, offering farmers and landowner’s unrivalled financial security.”