Natural England encourages planting miscanthus

Natural England is encouraging farmers planting miscanthus to avoid large areas of mono-habitat by incorporating strips of pollen and seed crops, but warns attention is needed to protect existing environmental scheme agreements.

Geoff Howe of NE’s Midlands Land Management Team told delegates it was possible to run Entry Level Scheme options and enriched miscanthus stands subsidised through the Energy Crops Scheme side-by-side, so long as the companion crops used were acceptable under original ELS documentation.

“At this site [Masstock Smart Farming plots at Old Springs Farm] miscanthus is grown alongside quinoa which may not be acceptable under some ELS agreements but could be under later HLS agreements. The key thing for growers is to check the original scheme booklet to find out which crops are acceptable,” he said.

It may be possible to have field margins included under an ELS agreement and have the main body of a field put down to miscanthus supported by the ECS, but the two areas must not overlap, he warned.

Although planting costs for miscanthus are typically £2,000/ha, half was recoverable under the ECS. Payments may also extend to rabbit-proofing growing areas and clearance of previous crops, delegates learnt.

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