Miscanthus: Planting and Growing (PB5421)

Planting Equipment

Planting can be carried out using semiautomatic potato planters, manure spreaders or bespoke planters. There is still some uncertainty as to which is the best planting method, because local site conditions can dramatically affect performance. However, use of the potato planter or bespoke planter are recommended, as the results below indicate.

Potato planter

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For rhizomes destined for use in the potato planter, grading is required to remove rhizomes which will not fall down the planting tube or have less than 2-3 buds. Once graded, the operator of the potato planter places rhizomes into a cup or drops them down a planting tube. The distance between plants is governed by the speed of a land wheel. As the rhizomes enter a furrow opened by a share, the soil is ridged over the rhizomes. The potato planter should be followed by a heavy roller to aid soil consolidation. The work rate achieved is low (0.3 ha/hr). This technique ensures accurate placement and good depth control, both of which are important for good establishment success.

Results - In a four-site study, this method achieved a work rate of 0.3ha/hr and an establishment rate of 95%.

Manure spreader

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This is the least favoured option. A manure spreader can be used simply by filling the hopper with rhizomes or a rhizome/soil mixture, and then spreading the material at a pre-determined rate to attain the desired plant density. Following broadcasting, the rhizomes are then cultivated into the soil, to a target depth of 10-15 cm and the soil rolled, for good rhizome-soil contact. This must be done as quickly as possible, to reduce moisture loss in the exposed rhizomes on the soil surface. This method produces a faster work rate (3 ha/hr), but it is an imprecise method due to the lack of control of plant spacing and depth. Perhaps most importantly, the rhizomes are not planted into a fine tilth, so even following rolling, contact with the soil may be very poor and the rhizomes prone to drying out.

Results - In the same four-site study, a work rate of 3ha/hr, but only 22% establishment was achieved with this method.

Bespoke planter

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A machine has been designed specifically for planting miscanthus by Hvidsted Energy in Denmark. This machine works by planting two rows of rhizomes into a shallow furrow opened by shares. Once planted, the soil is moved back to cover the rhizomes and then rolled. The machine can be calibrated, to plant different densities, if required.

Results - a work rate of 1.25ha/hr and an average establishment rate of 92%, in the four-site study.

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