17 Feb 2014

Multi-purpose miscanthus expands

1:53 pm on 17 February 2014

The company trialling a new multi-purpose crop in New Zealand is hoping to see it grown in commercial quantities this year, for uses ranging from stock bedding to diesel production.

Miscanthus x giganteus, which originates in Japan, is a perennial grass that's closely related to sugar cane. It's a sterile hybrid that grows up to 4m tall.

Miscanthus New Zealand is developing its use for renewable diesel, saying it expects to have one plant going in New Zealand by the end of the year.

Miscanthus grass.

Miscanthus grass. Photo: SUPPLIED

Managing director Peter Brown says trials in different parts of the country over several years have shown it can be grown successfully under a range of conditions.

Mr Brown says the company is aiming to gear up planting in spring this year and is exploring more potential uses for the highly versatile crop.

He says the traditional market for big quantities is burning in the place of coal and in the United Kingdom, stock bedding, particularly for horses.

In New Zealand he says there is an increasing market for bedding for stock barns, particularly dairy cows, and calf bedding.

"It's extremely effective bedding and lasts much longer, particularly for things like straw, with much less deterioration and without any smell."

Mr Brown says Lincoln University is also doing trials on the use of miscanthus as shelter belts on dairy farms and research is underway into its potential as stock feed, either as emergency or regular feed.

He says Lincoln University will hold a field day on its miscanthus shelter trials on 14 May. He says no-one else in the world has looked at it for this purpose before.