North Lincolnshire farmer to unmask the mystery of miscanthus

By Scunthorpe Telegraph | Posted: 6 Feb 2019

A North Lincolnshire farmer has advocated the growing of energy crops as a great opportunity for poor grade land.

Lincolnshire grower and Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board monitor farmer Colin Chappell, manages 647 hectares of land along the River Ancholme in Brigg.

There, he is responsible for 26 hectares of miscanthus, which heads less than a mile away from his farm gate to fuel the £162 million Brigg Renewable Energy Plant.

It opened in early 2016 on the former sugar plant site at Scawby Brook.

A delivery is made to Brigg Renewable Energy Plant. 

He said the business case for the energy crop continues to strengthen in the face of rising uncertainty in the farming sector, due to attractive long-term contracts available and secure markets for the crop.

“British farmers are stepping into the unknown,” he said. “Our subsidy will disappear and miscanthus has numerous positive attributes including long-term financial security, robust growing markets and environmental benefits.

“With Miscanthus you have to take a long-term view and look at the guaranteed returns available from an up front investment. Farming is shifting rapidly, and we must change our approach if we want to stay viable.”

The storage area within the power station, with the 'business end' also pictured below.

Mr Chappell supplies miscanthus specialist Terravesta with whole bales. Terravesta, in turn, has a 14-year contract with the power station, which has long-term government support.

The benefits of miscanthus far outweigh the up-front investment, Mr Chappell said: “I don’t worry about blackgrass on the fields of miscanthus, the leaf litter and high canopy combats it. The crop is low input, it stacks up nicely financially, it’s harvested in the spring when the rest of the farm is quiet, it’s carbon negative, it teems with wildlife and I can get 13 tonnes per hectare easily on poor grade land, and that’s from a crop planted in 2006. 

“Due to improved rhizome quality and planting techniques, new crops now have 90 per cent establishment on average and are likely to yield at least 15 tonnes per hectare.”

He will be opening his farm on March 21 to those keen to explore the benefits of the crop on a breakfast miscanthus farm walk, hosted by Terravesta and run in partnership with the CLA - the Country Land and Business Association.

Jacob Duce from Terravesta, said: “Miscanthus is a hardy perennial crop, with an average return of £562 per hectare over a 15-year period, and long-term fixed index linked contracts are available with Terravesta to grow and sell it.

“It takes approximately four to five years to make the money back but by year five growers are looking at approximately £700 per hectare net margin.” 

The Brigg plant officially opened in May 2016, and can provide power for 75,000 homes. Last year a new gas-fired rapid response peaking plant was opened on the site, which together with Centrica's existing Glanford Power Station made it three generating facilities on the one site. 

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