MUST: Miscanthus Upscaling Technology

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Funding

  • Innovate UK: £901,885.00

Funder Project Reference(s)

BB/N016149/1
Effective start/end date01 Feb 201631 Jan 2019

Description

Approximately 8000 ha of Miscanthus are currently grown in the UK. It is a C4 perennial crop biomass crop, and is harvested in spring and used for bioenergy and bioproducts. The commercial crop is rhizome planted and this limits
planting rates and hence market growth; the annual multiplication factor for seed is more than 200 times that from rhizomes. We will develop the technologies associated with delivering a seed based Miscanthus crop which can rapidly
upscale the crop. Firstly, we will establish the environmental conditions for seed production in the glasshouse in the UK, and in southern Europe for 10 novel cross combinations identified in the a former project, known as GIANT LINK, that are
potential varieties. Secondly, we will take three novel seed based Miscanthus hybrids and plant them at four trial sites in the UK. The planting of trials at two continental sites (Southern Germany and Central Poland) with more extreme climates will help us to understand the resilience of the hybrids we are testing to summer droughts and cold winters which occur only occasionally in the UK. We will explore the scope for improving establishment by optimising agronomy at planting time (e.g. use of mulch films and/or plug based planting) such that we achieve a commercially harvestable crop in year 2 (compared to years 3/4 in our rhizome planted crop). We will also seek to maximise the quality and quantity of crop at harvest by trialing alternative approaches to cutting time, cutting height, chipping, swathing and baling. MUST aims to take proof-of-concept work across the Miscanthus development chain and extend it to field scale.

Key findings

Miscanthus seed production technology is developing rapidly through glasshouse work in Aberystwyth and field experiments in Catania, Italy. In November 2016 >2M seeds were produced of two key hybrids.