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Towering 'elephant grass' energy crop on show at Norfolk farm

PUBLISHED: 09:47 24 July 2019 | UPDATED: 14:48 04 November 2019

Norfolk farmer Adam Brewer with the miscanthus energy crop he is growing for the biomass power station at Snetterton. Picture Adam Brewer

Norfolk farmer Adam Brewer with the miscanthus energy crop he is growing for the biomass power station at Snetterton. Picture Adam Brewer

Adam Brewer

A north Norfolk farmer is inviting visitors to see a fast-growing energy crop which he says has boosted his soil health while diversifying his income.

Miscanthus, also known as "elephant grass", is a perennial bamboo-like plant which thrives on unproductive land, growing up to 12 feet high with the potential to yield 15 tonnes per hectare.

Adam Brewer is growing 16 hectares of it at Melton Constable, near Fakenham, as a feed crop for the biomass renewable energy plant at Snetterton.

He aims to explain the financial and environmental benefits of the crop during a breakfast farm walk on September 10, co-hosted by miscanthus specialist Terravesta.

Mr Brewer, who manages the farm with his father alongside running his own audio company, said: "We were looking to diversify the business in a way that allowed me to continue with my audio work and the environmental impact of our farm is important to us. Miscanthus seemed like the ideal solution, with a very local market.

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"Like most farms, some of our land needed a rest and with miscanthus, the soil is largely untouched for the lifetime of the crop, which can be up to 20 years.

"It's clear that the farming sector needs to be more sustainable. We've tried to switch to minimum tillage on the farm as much as possible and the miscanthus will hopefully help our soils to recover from intensive farming over the years and leave them in better shape for future generations."

Mr Brewer said the crop is 2.5m tall already with very few chemical inputs, adding: "The crop is full of wildlife and we're looking forward to our first harvest early 2020."

Alex Robinson, general manager at Terravesta, said more farmers are looking at planting miscanthus since the Snetterton Renewable Energy Plant opened in 2017.

"Terravesta has a long-term contract with the plant for the supply of 25,000 tonnes of whole bales each year," he said. "Many farmers are not only reaping the financial benefits of the crop - studies also suggest that miscanthus can contribute to soil organic matter, earthworm diversity and stabilised soil structure."

- The farm walk in Melton Constable from 9am to midday on September 10 is free to attend. Places can be reserved at the Terravesta website.

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