Expanding the Miscanthus market in the UK: Growers in profile and experience, benefits and drawbacks of the bioenergy crop
Cite this dataset
von Hellfeld, Rebecca et al. (2022). Expanding the Miscanthus market in the UK: Growers in profile and experience, benefits and drawbacks of the bioenergy crop [Dataset]. Dryad. https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.83bk3j9tz
To achieve net zero greenhouse gas emission by 2050 as set out by the 2019 amendment to the 2008 UK Climate Change Act, a major shift towards renewable energy is needed. This includes the development of new methods along with improving and upscaling existing technologies. One example of new methods in bioenergy is developing new Miscanthus cultivars for electricity generation via thermal power station furnaces. Miscanthus is still relatively new compared to other agriculture practices, so market assessments and improvements are needed to reduce the barriers of entry for prospective growers. This publication provides a profile of UK Miscanthus growers and their businesses, their experiences of benefits and drawbacks of the crop, and what they see as potential barriers to entry for prospective farmers. A survey of current Miscanthus growers in England and Wales was conducted and indicated that most farmers were content with the crop and that its environmental and economic benefits were noted. However, it was evident that with a geographically limited UK market, growers wanted to see a better distribution of biomass processing stations to reduce the ongoing costs of transport. With growing demand for renewables, including bio-energy sources, it was determined important to provide information and support for stable farming operations and to incentivise the adoption of Miscanthus. Such incentives include ongoing development of new cultivars, focussing on traits such as production potential and stressor resilience, and growers indicated preference for an annual planting grant. These developments are predicted to further improve the crop’s profit margin, making it a more cost-effective crop for farmers. Sensitively managed Miscanthus also has the potential to contribute to carbon sequestration, soil health and aspects of farmland biodiversity. Incentivising such management in government land-based environmental schemes would offer additional income streams and help to promote environmental positive crop planting.
The grower’s questionnaire was sent out to all Terravesta-contracted Miscanthus growers in England and Wales in 2021. The questionnaire contained 37 questions with initial questions about the farm, followed by questions about the grower’s demographic status and experience in the sector (age, education, involvement in green schemes, etc.), followed by questions on their experience of the benefits and drawbacks of growing Miscanthus. The survey included multiple choice and open-ended questions, with multiple choice responses based on the five-point Likers scale: ‘strongly disagree’ (score 1), ‘disagree’ (2), ‘neutral’ (3), ‘agree’ (4), and ‘strongly agree’ (5). The statements were based on the outcome of a previous grower’s survey by Shepherd et al., (2020) and discussion with stakeholders and other researchers associated with the UKRI-funded Supergen Bioenergy Hub.
The questionnaire was created in Snap 11 (Version 11, build 11.22) which is managed online by the Snap WebHost. The questionnaire passed the research ethics review of the University of Aberdeen and a link to the questionnaire was distributed by Terravesta in a newsletter sent to their Miscanthus growers. The questionnaire was open for two months. Whilst the participation remained anonymous, interested parties were offered the opportunity to access a separate prize draw link at the end of the questionnaire as an incentive to respond to the survey.
Each grower was asked to answer the questionnaire, only two questions (questions 1 and 21) were mandatory, and all others were voluntary. The analysed results were given as a percentage of responses, also accounting for missing responses. Where a limited number of response options were provided, a following question allowed for free input to provide other responses that were not included in the list. Descriptive statistics were calculated to summarise the survey data. Responses to open-ended questions were captured in a table. Data visualisation used Excel (Version 2202, build 16.0.14931.20118).
UK Supergen Bioenergy Hub, Award: RG15855 – UKRI (EPSRC)
Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, Award: BB/V011553/1
EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Additive Manufacturing, Award: EP/S000771/1