Going green this year? Get bio scheme application form in before January 18
The EARLY days of the new year are a good time to consider alternatives to the usual crops. The Bioenergy Scheme for miscanthus and willow will close for applications on January 18 and there is limited availability of funding for this year.
The Department of Agriculture's website has full details of the scheme but all proposed planting must receive prior written pre-planting approval from the Department.
A few details should be noted. Applications will be prioritised according to the existing farming system, the suitability of the site and, especially, evidence of linkages with end-users to use the biomass crop as a source of bioenergy. In the current climate, a suitable market with a guaranteed return is essential.
There are a number of options available to growers but each of them has different advantages and these should be studied and agreed before signing any contract.
Good establishment of these crops is the very basic requirement for the successful draw down of grant aid. Take time to decide and look for examples of existing crops and their management and returns to date. Remember that these crops have been around for a few years now and, while many mistakes have been made in the past, most providers are now well aware of the difficulties.
Their experience and that of their growers should help to improve your returns from these crops over and above the returns achieved by some of the earlier pioneer growers. Remember, also, that once planting takes place you are in for a minimum of 10 years. So the contract you agree is vital and seek professional advice if in doubt.
The Department grant aid consists of a once-off capital grant, based on a percentage of approved establishment costs. These are grant aided up to 50pc, subject to a maximum grant of €1,300/ha and are based on invoices and receipts.