Grain News

Central Illinois Farmer Developing Miscanthus as Commercial Bioenergy Crop

Date Posted: November 2, 2007

by Myke Feinman, BioFuels Journal Editor

MONTICELLO, IL--John Caveny, a Monticello, IL, farmer, has been raising miscanthus as an energy crop since 2002.

Caveny brokered a deal this year with Speedling Incorporated, Nipomo, CA to sell miscanthus seedlings to farmers across the United States to plant as an energy crop.

“This is the first time miscanthus has been available on a commercial basis,” Caveny said.

The perennial crop is harvested between the fall and spring; it takes three years to mature and lasts at least 30 years.

It can be harvested with a standard forage implement and can be stored in dry form, chopped or pelletized for utilization as an energy crop.

A stem of eight to 12 inches is left as stubble along with leaves.

New shoots come up in the spring.

Miscanthus Facts

• Miscanthus is a perennial grass that needs normal inputs to the soil in the first year, herbicides in the first and second year, but nominal soil inputs and no herbicides by the third year.

• Miscanthus is initially planted in the spring in narrow rows and will provide a crop each year for up to 30+ years.

• Miscanthus has many uses including a biomass crop for fuel for a furnace to provide steam power, converting to hot gas, thermo conversion to bio-oil as crude for diesel fuel, bedding for livestock, or as feedstock for cellulosic ethanol.

• The planting rate is generally 5,000 to 8,000 plants per acre depending on site specific conditions.

• The grass provides up to 12 tons of biomass per acre in central Illinois, about 2.5 times more than switchgrass.

There is potential for 17 tons of dry matter in southern Illinois.

• 12 tons of biomass per acre can be converted into 1,200 gallons of cellulosic ethanol.

Corn yields about 450 to 500 gallons per acre.

Switchgrass yields about 700 gallons per acre.

• The Caveny farm has up to 30 acres of which 3 will eventually be all planted in miscanthus.

Presently, the farm has about two acres planted in miscanthus.

• More than 50,000 acres of miscanthus are under cultivatin in the United Kingdom to be utilized for co-firing with coal for generation of electricity.

• Caveny supplied Speedling (805 431 3192) with the original miscanthus plant material.

By propagating more plants from the Caveny farm material, Speedling will be able to offer enough miscanthus plants for farmers to plant 10,000 acres in 2008.

Caveny and Speedling are working on proposals that will encourage farmer's profitable entry into growing dedicated energy crops.

Speedling projects 4 million acres of miscanthus being planted within 10 years.

For more information, call 217-621-7767.

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