A project to facilitate more planting of the bioenergy crop miscanthus has been awarded over £3.3 million in funding through the second phase of the government’s Biomass Feedstocks Innovation Programme.

Miscanthus specialist, Terravesta, has been successful in its bid to secure phase two funding for OMENZ (Optimising Miscanthus Establishment through improved mechanisation and data capture to meet Net Zero targets).

OMENZ will deliver improvements on the entire miscanthus establishment process, including approaches to producing planting material, field preparation, innovative agri-tech, new planting techniques, and cutting-edge technologies to monitor establishment in the field.

Terravesta’s science and technology director, Dr. Michael Squance, said that miscanthus is important for net zero targets.

“The Climate Change Committee’s Sixth Carbon Budget report states that to reach net zero, 700,000ha of bioenergy crops need to be planted by 2050 – that’s 30,000ha a year starting in 2030.

“The first dedicated, peer reviewed study into miscanthus life cycles shows that the above ground biomass grows annually and recycles all the carbon that’s been produced through planting, harvesting, and burning the crop for renewable electricity, and at the same time, the underground rhizome and decaying leaf litter fixes and stores net 0.64t of carbon (2.35t carbon dioxide (CO2) equivalent) per hectare, each year as it grows.

“The Department for Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) is funding projects like ours through NZIP, the ‘Net Zero Innovation Portfolio’ and it’s our aim to increase the scale and quality of miscanthus establishment in the UK.

“In phase one of the project, we analysed field preparation, machinery, technology and planting techniques to identify areas which can deliver gains, efficiency and cost reduction.

“We started phase two of the project in mid-2022 and will trial and develop innovative techniques to improve miscanthus planting and establishment.”

The Biomass Feedstocks Innovation Programme was launched in 2021 by BEIS to enable organisations, including start-ups and small and medium-sized enterprises, to develop research projects that will deliver commercially viable innovations in biomass production.

Phase two will run until March 2025 to demonstrate the new methods tested.