Miscanthus has received widespread attention as a biomass crop in Europe where it is used primarily for combustion in power plants. It is desirable for this use because of its low water and ash contents and high energy output to input ratio. In the US and emerging markets, Miscanthus is being investigated as a biomass crop for bioenergy and biofuel (ethanol).
Miscanthus species originate in Asia and they are perennial, rhizomatous grasses with lignified stems resembling bamboo. Once the plants are established (typically requires 3-4 years) some genotypes have the potential for very high rates of growth growing stems that exceed 3m within a single growing season. Miscanthus is planted in spring and once planted can remain productive for at least fifteen years. The Miscanthus leaves fall off in the winter, contributing to the development of soil humus and nutrient cycling. Miscanthus produces bamboo-like canes during late spring and summer which are harvested in late winter or early spring. This growth pattern is repeated every year for the lifetime of the crop.
Miscanthus and other similar energy crop feedstock’s can be utilized to produce heat, electricity, liquid fuels (bio-ethanol), industrial materials (bio-composites) & agricultural markets (animal bedding). Miscanthus can be processed into a range of fuel formats. There are many companies that are beginning to use Miscanthus and it derivatives for its commercial, economic and environmental benefits.
• The crop, once established needs minimal pesticide or fertiliser treatments, and offers biodiversity and additional carbon sequestration benefits. Miscanthus is one of the most efficient and environmentally friendly means of producing sustainable biomass for renewable energy markets.
• The crop produces biomass 3 times more efficiently than conventional agricultural crops such as wheat or maize and under the right growing conditions.
• The crop can produce annual yields of from 20 to 30 tons per hectare from the third year onwards.
• One of its uses is for the remediation of soils against nematodes. Miscanthus is said to be resistant to nematodes. It was tested to see if it would remediate soils contaminated with cadmium, the cadmium killed the rhizomes.
• Once established very little or no irrigation is required, minimal amounts of nitrogen fertiliser (50 kg of fertiliser per ha per year is needed), and can be grown on marginal land.
• The crop will yield annually for up to 15 years without replanting and is non-evasive.
• Miscanthus can be used in co-generation with coal fired power stations to generate electricity and as ethanol.