Farm Ireland

Monday 19 March 2018

Teagasc blasted in miscanthus row

Darragh McCullough

Darragh McCullough

Teagasc has been accused of jeopardising the future of the miscanthus growing industry in Ireland.

The row centres on Teagasc's plans to install a new demonstration biomass-fuelled heating system on their research farm at Johnstown Castle over the coming months.

However, the burner system that has been chosen following a tender process will not be able to handle miscanthus bales, of which there are over 4,000 in storage in the southeast.

While Teagasc sources said that the burner suppliers have guaranteed that the burner will be able to handle chipped miscanthus, Paddy O'Toole, of Quinns of Baltinglass, has rubbished the claim.

"This burner is totally unproven technology and even if it does handle chipped miscanthus it won't be satisfactory, since the most cost-effective way for farmers to produce and store miscanthus is in a bale form," said Mr O'Toole.

"Chipped miscanthus heats in storage unless it is treated with ventilation systems.

"But miscanthus 8x4x 3 bales can be stored without any such problems," he said.

However, Teagasc maintained that a unit that could handle bales would cost up to 60pc or €100,000 more than a standard biomass burner.

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In addition, the State body said that a bale feeding mechanism would require extra and costly labour input since it could not be automated like a chip-fed system.

It is estimated that 7,000ac of miscanthus is currently being grown in Ireland by approximately 300 growers.

Harvesting of the crop will commence in February, with an expected yield of 10,000t.

"This is a prime opportunity for Teagasc to show medium-to -large-scale users that baled miscanthus can provide a credible alternative to oil at an equivalent cost of 22c/l.

"Instead, they are engaging in an face-saving exercise," said Mr O'Toole.

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