Establishment of Miscanthus (Miscanthus x giganteus) as an Alternate Bedding Supply

2011 Annual Report for FNE11-719

Project Type: Farmer
Funds awarded in 2011: $7,350.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2014
Grant Recipient: Central Manor Dairy
Region: Northeast
State: Pennsylvania
Project Leader:
Steven Harnish
Central Manor Dairy

Establishment of Miscanthus (Miscanthus x giganteus) as an Alternate Bedding Supply


Our goal in this 3 year project is to analyze the feasability of using chopped Miscanthus x giganteus as dairy cow bedding. In the 2011 growing season we successfully established as stand of miscanthus on a 2 acre plot. We selected a plot that surrounded the wellhead of a nearby elementary school. Growing miscanthus instead of a corn/soybean/alfalfa rotation allows us to maintain soil fertility in the well setback without manure application.

A few minor adjustments to our plan were necessary, but the establishment phase of the project was a success. After a very dry early summer in 2011 we still had 75% of our plants growing in the fall. There are 4 foot canes of miscanthus that are still standing in early 2012. We anticipate rapid growth in 2012 with no additional inputs needed.

Objectives/Performance Targets

The establishment phase of the project is by far the most expensive and labor intensive part of this project. We selected plug plants instead of rhyzomes in order to use a 3-row mechanical transplanter. This was supposed to automate much of the work and enable us to plant the field in 2-3 hours. We communicated to our supplier the need for small plants that would fit through the transplanter and were assured that we would get the youngest plants available.

When the plants arrived it was obvious that they were too large. Some plugs had leaves up to 14 inches long. We purchased an old, single row transplanter from a relative instead. After a week of wet weather, we were finally able to plant on May 27-28. It took about 14 hours to plant the 2 acre field with the old planter. We didn’t have the ability to add water during planting, but the ground had received 3 inches of rain from May 16-20.

The only significant rainfall we had in the next 6 weeks was an inch on June 10 and less than an inch on july 8th. The miscanthus that had long leaves was wilting and the plugs that did not have leaves were not emerging. Plugs that were only half buried by the transplanter dried out and died.

Finally steady, frequent rain begain on July 25th and continued through the month of August. Plants with wilted leaves that had shown no growth since May started growing rapidly. All of the submerged plugs put up multiple shoots. It appeared that the plugs survived the dry spell if they were completely buried during planting. By September each plug had formed a clump of dozens of leaves. The larger plants grew thick stems, which dried out into the canes that stay standing over the winter.


The appearance of our field is similar to the trials done at the University of Illinois. We expect larger yields in 2012 and close to full production in 2013.

We used a single-row tractor mounted cultivator for weed control in mid-June and then 1 application of pendimethalin (Prowl) herbicide in July. Our agronomy consultant suggested that cultivation might not have been necessary if we had applied Prowl before planting. We have not had weed pressure since July and anticipate no need for future applications if the miscanthus grows aggressively in the spring.

Our expectation is that the only annual requirement to maintain the miscanthus plot is the winter harvest each year.


Dan MacFarland

[email protected]
Extension Educator
112 Pleasant Acres Road
York, PA 17402
Office Phone: 7178407408