MISCANTHUS - MARKET TAKING OFF
New and expanded uses for Miscanthus are appearing, and new sites are being planted.
A tall grass touted as a multi-purpose wonder plant has proved its worth as a shelterbelt replacement for Canterbury dairy farms, says Lincoln University ecology professor Steve Wratten. A North Asian grass closely related to sugarcane, Miscanthus x giganteus grows to 3.5 – 4m high and is used overseas for feedstock for biofuels, stock bedding
Miscanthus is a high yielding crop that annually grows over three metres tall. Similar in appearance to sugar cane, it produces a crop every year without the need for replanting. Miscanthus is used for feedstock production for energy and non-energy end uses. It is a valuable crop, offering major benefits to many sectors, inside and
Under renewed irrigation, following repair in November of the centre pivot damaged in the September gales, growth rate of established Mxg shelter has remained impressive with paddocks 21 (Fig.1) and 6 reaching an average height of 2.0 m and 1.8 m, respectively, by mid-February. Maximum height for both shelterbelts was 2.3 m. Expected maximum height at the end of season 2 is 3 m so despite early setbacks from no irrigation during the spring drought these Mxg plants demonstrated impressive growth rates.
Things were very hectic through January and into February. I do not think I really realised at the time we purchased the Taharoa C Block Incorporation Miscanthus assets, just how much work this would involve. Whereas we had previously been focusing on the production of plantlets with the aim of getting into rhizomes eventually, plus
Well with all the rush of activity immediately prior to Christmas, the monthly chat was noticeable by its absence. This was accentuated by my wanting to delay posting another message until some interesting developments had come to fruition one way or the other. The other significant player in the Miscanthus business in New Zealand –
As anticipated in Newsletter 10, damage to the Centre Pivot at Aylesbury Farm caused problems with some early-season Miscanthus (Mxg) growth but fortunately severe damage has occurred only with the shelterbelt in paddock 22. Pivot repair was finally completed on December 8 but due to part of the pivot falling onto the Mxg shelter in paddock 22 many of the plants were driven over during repair.
The growing season for Miscanthus is well underway and even in areas that have not been harvested, the Miscanthus is shooting up extremely quickly. Three weeks ago at a site in the South Waikato area, the Miscanthus was already knee height and the change from one week to the next has been quite exciting to
The first signs of re-growth started to appear at the beginning of September. Stems that senesced over the winter remained soft and did not stiffen to produce harder stems, as had been expected. This may be a feature of first season’s growth or may have been a consequence of the relatively mild winter resulting in a slower rate of nutrient transfer. M. x gianteus (Mxg) is not harvested in its first season but when considering future harvest date research (Lewandowski and Heinz 2003) shows energy yield is reduced the later the harvest date, due to nutrient content decreasing as nutrients are translocated to the rhizome.
An American colleague of mine who is involved in Miscanthus research and teaching said to me some time back that development of a Miscanthus industry is a business that takes quite some time to get going. For somebody as impatient as I am, it was frustrating to hear that, but she is quite right. So
You would really think that because it is the time of year when things are not growing, this would be the quiet time of year in the Miscanthus business. But it is in fact the time of year when we are trying to get people to firm up on their decisions about how many plants