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Blog Post – March 2013

his is the inaugural issue of what will be a monthly update of activity in the world of Miscanthus New Zealand Limited. Our first two and a half years have been very busy as we move from having 34 plants that we imported in tissue culture, to supplying several hundred thousand plants to landowners who were keen to grow Miscanthus.

Along the way, we have learnt a lot about what works well and where problems are likely to arise. Our systems have improved so that problems and risks are minimised and we have been very pleased with the initial growth rates achieved, particularly those in Hawke’s Bay where we thought that the fry climate might mean that there would be difficulty getting Miscanthus established successfully.

Initial sampling in Hawkes Bay indicated that actual production at the end of the second growing season was in the order of more than twice what we had been assuming and this augured well for the overall economics and for growing Miscanthus on a commercial scale.

The number of sites on which we have Miscanthus growing has been expanding and we are now looking for new sites in Northland where there is rapidly firming demand for Miscanthus biomass product, sufficient for us to need to get 7000 or more hectares planted. The challenge will be being able to identify sufficient suitable land and to get the landowners sufficiently interested to make the initial establishment investment to enable this particular project to be a success.

At the same time, there is considerable interest from around Lake Taupo, because the Lake Taupo Protection Trust recognises Miscanthus as being a crop that significantly reduces nitrogen run-off into the lake. In that situation, our challenge is to get end users of appropriate scale in the vicinity of Taupo to become sufficiently interested that they will offer long term contracts for purchase of the Miscanthus product.

Interest has also recently come from Southland with the thinking being to use Miscanthus as shelter crop to protect pasture from the cold southerly winds that dairy farmers have realised significantly reduce pasture growth. This is a different issue from the use of Miscanthus for shelter in Canterbury and the whole structure of how this is managed will be different. But with Southland having such reliable rainfall and during the growing season having much longer day length than regions further north, it is very likely that Miscanthus will thrive in that environment even though the growing season is shorter.

These are just three examples of what we are working on at present. So the opportunities are out there. Now it is simply a matter of Miscanthus New Zealand Limited spending the time working with people to develop these possibilities to the point where they begin to function independently with the initial planting of Miscanthus acting as an advertisement that attract further planting.

Peter Brown