Machinery and Equipment Guide

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Machinery and equipment required for giant miscanthus production will vary depending on the operator’s production system preferences. The following discussion describes basic machinery and equipment needs for producing giant miscanthus, and it approximates costs incurred from operating machinery used in the production process. Because giant miscanthus is a perennial, note that machinery needs will vary by establishment or production stage.

Machinery and Equipment Needs

When preparing the giant miscanthus planting site, the extent of site preparation will vary by the site’s condition and previous use. Fields used recently for row crop production have less extensive site preparation needs. Choosing a clean field that had glyphosate-resistant soybeans planted previously may allow producers to contest with fewer weeds and reduced crop residues. Herbicide residuals in some cases may create a challenge for giant miscanthus, however. Growing a winter cover crop before planting giant miscanthus may help with managing weed pressure and erosion.

For fallow land, site preparation may involve brush removal, moldboard plowing, disking and soil finishing. Before planting, spraying a glyphosate burndown can eradicate plant material and weeds that currently grow at the planting location. Other tillage practices that may be appropriate for preparing a giant miscanthus planting site include harrowing and cultipacking. Strip tillage is another option that would help to control erosion and weeds.

A giant miscanthus planting site should have at least a 6-inch finely tilled depth. Depending on soil pH test results, planting sites may require a lime application. The soil pH level should range from 6to 8. At least six months before planting, producers should apply lime.

Planting giant miscanthus requires access to specialized equipment. To plant giant miscanthus, producers may use rhizomes, plugs or tissue culture transplants. If planting plugs or transplants, then producers may use a modified tobacco or vegetable transplanter, and they require water being applied after transplanting. If planting rhizomes, then producers may use modified corn drills or potato planters. The selected equipment must have openings large enough for the rhizomes. To encourage adequate rhizome-to-soil contact and reduce air pockets, producers may roll fields after they plant giant miscanthus rhizomes. If the initial planting doesn’t lead to the recommended plant population, then producers may need to replant. Depending on the field location, producers may need to plant or maintain at least a 25-foot setback to prevent giant miscanthus from spreading.

From a management perspective, producers must be especially diligent about managing weeds during establishment. Applying pre-emergence and post-emergence herbicide may help with weed control. Herbicide application becomes less critical after giant miscanthus becomes established because it could then better compete with weeds. If producers prefer tillage-based weed control, then they may use a rotary hoe during the first two years. Giant miscanthus doesn’t need high soil nutrient levels. Fertilizer application is still recommended for the first year. In subsequent years, fertilizer needs will depend on nutrients removed in the previous year. To maintain a giant miscanthus field boundary, producers may use a brush mower. In the establishment year, miscanthus will not be fully developed and will require mowing or burning to reset the crop for the next growing season.

At harvest, producers can use conventional hay or silage equipment to harvest giant miscanthus. Using a silage harvester contributes to reduced harvest losses, but producers would need more storage space for chopped giant miscanthus. To cut giant miscanthus, producers should use a mower-conditioner. A mower-conditioner breaks giant miscanthus stems and allows for faster drying and improved windrow formation. When mowing giant miscanthus, producers should cut the crop 2 inches to 4 inches from the ground. Raking windrows isn’t recommended before baling as it could incorporate leaves into the windrow and reduce the miscanthus biomass quality.

With respect to harvest timing, producers may capture the highest yields by harvesting giant miscanthus during the late summer, or by waiting until late winter or early spring, producers can benefit from the miscanthus returning nutrients from the biomass into the rhizome. Additionally, postponing harvest will reduce mineral content in the biomass and improve the biomass quality. If a producer waits to harvest too late, however, then using harvest equipment in a field may harm new growth. Giant miscanthus moisture content should be less than 20 percent at harvest.

If producers have a need to eradicate giant miscanthus, then they could consider using a rototiller throughout the growing season or combining glyphosate application and tillage. Completely eradicating miscanthus may take multiple growing seasons.

Equipment and Machinery Needs for Giant Miscanthus Production*

Tractor X
Disk X
Lime application X
Planter X
Roller X
Fertilizer spreader X
Sprayer X
Mower X
Mower-conditioner X
Large round baler X
Moving bales on farm X
Hauling X
Owned and Operated Equipment or Custom Hire Services

When considering crop production machinery and equipment needs, producers have the option to used owned equipment or hire a custom service provider. The decision will depend on an operation’s current machinery and equipment inventory, time available for conducting machinery operations and the difference in cost. The following table compares projected costs for the two scenarios per pass per acre. In the first, a grower owns and operates equipment. In the second, a grower hires a custom service provider to carry out equipment-related work. The machinery costs are meant to represent total costs incurred for operating equipment needed in giant miscanthus production for bioenergy use.

Estimated Machinery Costs and Custom Rates, Per Acre Per Pass

Machinery Cost Custom Rate
Heavy disk $14.60 $15.80
Tandem disk $12.60 $12.74
Lime application* $9.34
Planter $30.00
Roller $7.90
Fertilizer spreader $7.62 $5.34
Sprayer $3.70 $5.98
Mowing $23.60 $16.38
Mower-conditioner $20.70 $12.04
Large round baler** $29.20 $150.00
Moving bales on farm** $2.88 $3.18
Hauling^ $22.15 $63.60
* Lime application is communicated as price per ton, not price per pass.
** Costs assumed for mature production.
^Hauling rate may vary depending on proximity to ultimate market. This assumes 20 miles.

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