Branch out with eucalyptus
Most of us are constantly looking for new crops that will leave a reasonable profit without the weather risks associated with growing grain.
Formerly, we farmed almost exclusively to produce food but now we are being urged to grow more crops for energy use.
It is worth noting how words like sustainable, renewable and recyclable have crept in to our everyday language along with bio diverse, bio degradable, carbon neutral and so on.
Everyone is familiar with the arguments relating to the environment, the dangers of greenhouse gas emissions and the most popular topic of all, how to heat our homes economically.
Green energy crops are gradually gaining a foothold and even grain is being grown to burn for heat. That seems somehow like a waste of good food, but the argument goes that if you feed it to a horse it produces energy so why not feed it to a stove.
I have always been sceptical regarding the merits of making wood chip or wood pellets. A basic log, once dry, makes excellent fuel without the high energy requirement and costs of further manufacturing.
I also feel that there are still questions to be answered regarding the economics and viability of producing willow or miscanthus for energy production and feel more at ease with the concept of planting fast-growing tree species to supply our heating needs.
Trees are relatively straightforward to harvest and for smaller operations, one only needs the most basic of equipment. This line of thought is of course not considered fashionable at present but then often the wisest and safest move can be to resist fashion and avoid costly capital investments.