Trends in cultivating extensive energy plants: Miscanthus (elephant grass) or sida? (Part 2)
For extensive energy plants to be harvested yearly, unfortunately, there is still no such a large choice, as for energy woods. But, exactly these grasses and perennials have some important advantages over energy forest crops.
What they have in common, is that the crops are usually harvested very dry, far below 20% (8-15%), and you can use normal harvesters, such as rowless corn chopper. Moreover, the biodiversity on larger plantations is also a topic that becomes more and more interesting.
Sida, a relatively new energy plant in Central Europe, seems to fill the gap that is difficult to cover with other plants.
So it grows in the classic dry regions (300-600 mm rainfall and long, dry summers) of Austria, such as Weinviertel, some parts of Burgenland, or in Hungary, still quite considerably. Of course, it is nowhere near the yields of Miscanthus (elephant grass) or traditional energy woods, such as poplars or willows, but those cannot mostly be achieved at all under those circumstances.
Poland, with its continental climate, strong winters, and insufficient snow cover, as well as poorer soils, has also established larger sida areas in recent decades. The German Brandenburg would also be of interest for sida planting. We think that there will be something more to do with sida, and we’ll keep you informed, of course!
Miscanthus is still a matter
Harvesting Miscanthus, just like sida, on a yearly basis seems to become somewhat mellowed. At least, you could get such an impression in Central Europe. We cannot quite confirm this, since new Miscanthus areas are established in many countries in Central and Northern Europe. Southern and South-Eastern Europe still remains exciting for Miscanthus giganteus, though it is difficult, of course, to find suitable partners for planting there.
In general, we can observe that more and more heating installers can now passably deal with Miscanthus, which fuel is by far not simple, or have well adapted their ovens to it. At larger heating plants, the elephant grass, as an admixture to wood chips, also finds buyers easier now, since prices are high and the supply of wood chips from forests is rather scant. Meanwhile, individual small heating plants are now purely operated with Miscanthus and – upon initial teething problems – work properly. Here is a small cinematic impression on heating with Miscanthus.
Currently, seedlings for smaller and medium-sized areas are available in sufficient amounts. Due to extremely mild winter, the planting season will begin well, but earlier this year, so we would recommend you to let us know as soon as possible if you are interested in Miscanthus or sida planting!
Here you can buy both energy wood and sida or Miscanthus.
Reinhard Sperr, www.energiepflanzen.com im Februar 2014