“These seeded hybrids are vital to our future business model and the rapid deployment of miscanthus as part of the climate change solution.”
Researchers at the Institute of Biological, Environmental & Rural Sciences (IBERS) Aberystwyth University, with funding from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), have developed new hybrids of the biomass crop miscanthus that will enable growers to scale-up production to meet the UK’s future biomass energy and biochemicals production needs.
Moreover, such biomass can also be used as a feedstock to replace chemicals and materials currently derived from fossil fuels or energy demanding processes, and therefore help to decarbonise the economy, the BBSRC (@BBSRC) said in a statement.
The new hybrids are adapted to UK conditions and to growing on areas of lower-quality land that are less suitable for food production. They are produced from seeds instead of rhizomes, which allow for a much more rapid scale-up of the commercial planted area, at a lower cost and with a lower environmental impact.
Industry partner Terravesta (@Terravesta), which holds licences for the most promising new hybrids, is aiming for commercial roll-out of the crop in 2020. The new hybrids are also undergoing commercial trials in six European countries.
Biomass arising from these trials will then be converted into a range of products such as platform chemicals for bioplastic production, building insulation and fibre-reinforced composites, thus ensuring that research and innovations developed in the UK provide benefit across Europe.
“These seeded hybrids are vital to our future business model and the rapid deployment of miscanthus as part of the climate change solution,” said William Cracroft-Eley, Chairman at Terravesta. “We hold licences for some of the most promising seed-based hybrids developed in Aberystwyth (@AberUni), with the first commercial roll out starting in 2020”.
The team has also been developing the agronomy required for seed-based hybrids, including the use of mulch films to accelerate establishment.
Jonathan Scurlock, Chief Advisor on Renewable Energy and Climate Change at National Farmers’ Union (NFU), said: “More rapid establishment of the miscanthus crop results in it reaching maximum yields a year earlier, and this combined with guaranteed prices paid to the farmer within a long term contract makes the crop very attractive.”