Miscanthus yields are back by 40pc due to 2018 drought

Crops grown on light and dry tillage soils have been hardest hit

Energy crop miscanthus
Energy crop miscanthus
Declan O'Brien

Declan O'Brien

Miscanthus yields are back around 40pc this year due to last summer's drought.

Crops that would typically yield 5-5.5t/ac are yielding around 3t/ac in the current harvest, Paddy O'Toole from Quinns of Baltinglass told the Farming Independent.

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Mr O'Toole said crops grown on light and dry tillage soils were hardest hit by the drought. However, he said yields from heavier ground were also well back. Crops grown on heavy land that usually yielded 4.5t/ac were giving 3-3.5t/ac this spring.

Harvesting is well under way across much of the south and east, with around 65pc of the crop cut, Mr O'Toole said. However, progress has been disrupted by last week's poor weather.

Quinns are paying €80/t for baled miscanthus ex-field, at moisture levels under 20pc.

Support Scheme

Meanwhile, Mr O'Toole welcomed the European Commission's recent approval of the Government's Support Scheme for Renewable Heat (SSRH).

He said the scheme had the potential to create "real opportunities" for growers of biomass crops.

A recent study for the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) found that straw at €60/t, or willow at 55pc moisture and priced at €38/t could compete with imported biomass or woodchip from forestry as a fuel source. Similarly, the study noted that miscanthus could be competitive as a possible fuel source.

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The SEAI study estimated that 200,000ha could be available to grow biomass crops such as willow and miscanthus. However, Mr O'Toole said growers would only be enticed into growing biomass crops if there was a decent return from the enterprise.

He maintained that a carbon tax on fossil fuels will be required to incentivise businesses to switch over to renewable fuels.

Indo Farming