The Miscanthus (Elephant grass) variety that we grow is the Miscanthus giganteus. This is a “woody” perennial crop that grows about 3.5 meters high every year. Miscanthus giganteus is a sterile triploid of Miscanthus sacchariflorus and Miscanthus sinensis. Because the crops is sterile, it propagates itself through rhizome division. The crop grows rapidly due to its C4 photosynthesis, has a low nutrient requirement and no diseases have been detected in the crop.
The photosynthesis of Miscanthus giganteus seems to be better adapted to lower temperatures than many other C4 crops, so that the crop is also capable of producing a lot of biomass in the Western European climate. When the crop is fully developed, 15 – 18 tons of biomass can be harvested annually with a relatively low moisture content (around 15%) because the Miscanthus is then dried. The tonnage to be harvested depends, of course, on the growing conditions, in which a good start is particularly important to realize a productive planting location!
Carbon sequestration potential as a C4 crop
Miscanthus Giganteus belongs to the genus of the C4 plants, which are very effective in the sequestration of CO2.
High annual yield of biomass and cellulose
With a yield of about 17 tonnes annually from the fourth year after planting and a high cellulose content (45% – 52%) Miscanthus is one of the most promising crops in the Western European climate.
Virtually no pesticides
Only in the planting year and the first year post planting weed control is necessary. For the remaining 19 years this is no longer needed due to leaf fall and the rapid growth of the elephant grass.
Virtually no fertilization
The need for fertilization is very limited (from the third year after planting annually 30 – 60 kg. N/ha.). First of all this is a result of the fact Miscanthus is a C4 crop. Secondly this is a result of the fact that the crop dries and the nutrients sink back to the rhizomes. Thirdly after leaf fall and composting of the leaves the nutrients are absorbed by the elephant grass’ rhizomes.
Non – invasive
In contrast to some other perennial crops elephant grass gives no problems with removal of the crop.
Due to the length and the density of Miscanthus, the crop provides a shelter for the wildlife. This is also because virtually no pesticides are applied and that therefore there is no risk of pesticide runoff.
With its deep rooting and the limited operational activities in the winter, the risk of erosion is smaller when growing Miscanthus instead of the traditional crops.
Because of the long-term nature of the cultivation, operational activities are limited, the additional advantage of this is that this keeps the operational costs relatively low. For example, the plant costs can be divided over the total life of the crop of 20 years.