A project looking to expand cultivation of bioenergy crop Miscanthus has received over £150,000 in funding under the UK Government’s Biomass Feedstocks Innovation Programme.
The project – dubbed OMENZ – is being run by Terravesta with the aim of helping the UK reach its net zero targets by developing plants that store carbon, enhance biodiversity and improve soils.
“The OMENZ project will pave the way for more perennial bioenergy crops to be planted, by developing the technologies and infrastructure needed,” said Michael Squance, Terravesta’s science and technology director in a press release.
“We need to ensure more biomass feedstocks are available to meet the growing demand for decarbonisation of agriculture and for the rapidly emerging bio-economy,” he adds.
Miscanthus is a large, perennial grass that has gained increased attention in recent years as its active capturing of CO2 and biomass production has singled it out as an ideal biofuel crop. Its year-round nature means it can be harvested in any season, and requires minimal maintenance for cultivation. Terravesta is working to upscale production of this crop, particularly on marginal or typically hostile land that has experienced environmental degradation.
If successful, the Phase 1 trial will expand to meet the UK’s targets of planting 30,000 hectares per year by 2035 to achieve a total of 700,000 hectares in 2050. Phase two is planned for spring of 2022.
“The OMENZ project will take six months to complete, and will analyse field preparation, machinery, technology and planting techniques to identify areas that can deliver gains, efficiency and cost reduction,” says Jason Kam, Terravesta’s head of R&D. “If successful in Phase 2 of the BEIS funded programme, Terravesta’s project then aims to trial a range of new technologies, including automated systems and drone-linked machine learning, using an integrated data capture and analysis platform to gain insights into crop performance.”
Established this year, the Biomass Feedstocks Innovation Programme was set up by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) to support organisations of all sizes working to deliver innovative biomass technologies. To date, the programme has awarded a total of £4m in funding to such projects.