The new Miscanthus Rhizome Root Harvester and Planter was officially presented in January at the Bioenergy Symposium held at the University of Illinois (USA). This new multi-function machine is the result of three years' collaboration between the University and US companies Tomax Ltd and Bermuda King USA.
The machine can lower the cost of miscanthus production by up to 40%, as well as increasing the opportunities for miscanthus to be used more widely as a high-yield bioenergy crop. According to Gavin Maxwell, a technology advisor at Tomax Ltd, “Bioenergy feedstock processors require security for supply and, unless we dealt with regeneration and planting issues for miscanthus, we simply couldn’t make progress”.
Miscanthus, a rootstock plant, is a labour-intensive crop requiring multiple machines and therefore with high labour costs. “The team involved in this project had a very clear objective right from the start. Our goal was to remove manual labour, integrate the digging and grading process, increase soil separation and improve both quality and volume to substantially reduce the cost of vegetative rootstock propagation”, explains Maxwell.
The result is the Rizomgen™ planter/harvester, which is expected to cut harvesting and planting costs by up to 50%. In this sense, recent trials in the USA have obtained increases of up to 200% in harvesting efficiency rates over manual systems, thereby allowing for the improved efficiency of production nurseries.
As for the planting process, this new model allows for more uniform streams of rhizomes as planting takes place at a rate that matches the rhizome weight and ground conditions. In this sense, the four row planter incorporates separate feed hoppers and placement channels that can be adapted to the plot size.
As for the harvester, it can bulk lift the rhizomes on a continual basis with a patented one-pass digging head and oscillating de-soiler. The rhizomes exit via a bulk side discharger to an adjacent trailer. The speed of extraction allows faster transfer of rhizomes to storage, which is a real benefit given the seasonal weather restrictions and narrow window of time that may prevail during the rhizome winter dormancy period.
The package will be available for licensed U.S. and EU nurseries in 2010 and for expanding grower crops for the 2011 season.
Source : Bioenergy International (Spanish edition)