JEFFERSON, Ohio – A hybrid perennial bamboo-like plant that grows relatively fast on less-than-ideal soils, is harvested in winter, and is used as a bioenergy and bioproduct crop is gaining popularity among growers in northeast Ohio thanks to its hardy growth, which is allowing marginal farmlands to be put into profitable production.
Nearly 4,000 acres of giant miscanthus have been planted in Ashtabula County since 2011, said David Marrison, an Ohio State University Extension educator. OSU Extension is the outreach arm of the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences at The Ohio State University.
And thanks to this year’s mild winter, 350 acres, representing nearly 10 percent of the area’s harvest, have already been harvested, nearly five weeks ahead of last year’s schedule, Marrison said.
“One of the challenges for harvest is that it must be accomplished during the wet, cold, damp winter,” he said. “Work must be accomplished around winter storms.
“In 2015, Aloterra Energy made major inroads to the successful harvest of miscanthus by switching from baling the miscanthus to chopping it, like livestock farmers harvest haylage or corn silage. These changes are opening the eyes of local farmers and landowners about the long-term success of this crop in northeast Ohio.”
Giant miscanthus is a perennial warm-season grass from Asia that is garnering attention across the Midwest as a potential bioenergy and bioproducts crop. Researchers at Ohio State University South Centers at Piketon have been testing the crop’s adaptability to Ohio since 2010.
Growers, landowners, farmers and others who want to learn more about miscanthus can attend a “Miscanthus Harvest in Northeast Ohio” workshop and bus trip March 11 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. The program will begin at the Ashtabula County office of OSU Extension, 39 Wall St. in Jefferson, with a primer on the history of miscanthus production in northeast Ohio, Marrison said.
Participants will then take a bus tour that includes a stop at a miscanthus field and then to a facility in Andover to learn how miscanthus is being turned into an absorbent product used in several applications including spill management of water, hydrocarbons and automotive fluids, he said.
The tour will end with a stop at the Ashtabula Pulp and Packaging Facility, which manufactures miscanthus packaging.
“This plant is producing paper products such as plates and clamshells for the food service industry and is capable of producing 50 million pieces each year,” Marrison said.
Registration is $10 and includes program materials, lunch and refreshments. The deadline to register is March 4 or until the bus is sold out. A registration form can be found at go.osu.edu/miscanthus.
For more information, contact Marrison at firstname.lastname@example.org or 440-576-9008, ext. 106.