Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Miscanthus stabilises flooded soils, say researchers

December 23, 2019 by  
Filed under Crops

Low input energy crop miscanthus can help stabilise flooded soils, according to a researchers at  Aberystwyth University.

Miscanthus can grow well in waterlogged and flood-prone areas – as well as providing much needed soil stability, suggests a recent study by the university’s Institute of Biological Environmental and Rural Sciences.

Crop quality

Lead researcher Jason Kam said crop quality was 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.”

The Environment Agency estimate that the UK loses  2.2 million tonnes of topsoil very year – with more than 17% of arable land showing signs of erosion. “Miscanthus not only helps to stabilise land, it also feeds depleted soils, retaining vital nutrients,” said Dr Kam.

More resilient

Miscanthus is a perennial crop, so does not need to be planted annually. “This therefore reduces soil disturbance to a minimum. The structure of miscanthus rhizome and root helps to stabilise soils, making it more resilient against flood-caused soil erosion.”

Interest in the crop has never been greater, according to miscanthus specialist Terravesta. It is a profitable option for marginal land where farmers find it hard to grow profitable arable crops, suggests Alex Robinson, the company’s general manager.

The crop which is currently grown on around 7,000 hectares of low-grade marginal land in the UK. Contracts to grow miscanthus are seen as an increasingly attractive diversification option for farmers looking to benefit from long-term price security.

Grower return

“Miscanthus takes care of itself,” says grower Ashley Eastland. “There are no inputs with it and it’s great to see no outgoings such as chemical, fertiliser and diesel bills leaving the account.”

The company launched Terravesta Athena last summer, describing it as the world’s first commercially bred miscanthus hybrid variety. It is said to deliver faster establishment and higher yields sooner, improving grower return on investment.

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