Giant Miscanthus Production on Maryland Eastern Shore’s Marginal Land: Grassroots Efforts to Restore Profitable Agriculture

Project Overview

Project Type: Partnership
Funds awarded in 2021: $25,801.00
Projected End Date: 11/30/2024
Grant Recipient: University of Maryland
Region: Northeast
State: Maryland
Project Leader:
Dr. Sarah Hirsh
University of Maryland


  • Agronomic: grass (misc. perennial)


  • Animal Production: other
  • Crop Production: cropping systems
  • Education and Training: demonstration, extension, farmer to farmer, focus group, on-farm/ranch research, workshop
  • Farm Business Management: budgets/cost and returns
  • Production Systems: agroecosystems

    Proposal abstract:

    Giant miscanthus (miscanthus x giganteus) is a sterile, hybrid, perennial crop that can grow up to 12 ft tall. This biomass crop has a burgeoning market as a poultry bedding material on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Giant miscanthus has shown promise as an alternative crop for the region’s marginal land affected by saltwater intrusion, prolonged flooding and heavy deer pressure. The proposed project will result in a 10 acre giant miscanthus planting, on a field that is representative of the typical marginal land on the Eastern Shore. The objectives of this project are to 1)  perform research about giant miscanthus growth on marginal land, and 2) foster regionally relevant education about giant miscanthus. In order to accomplish these goals, we will assess environmental factors of the field including salt content, fertility, soil moisture, and deer pressure. In addition, we will assess miscanthus emergence, growth and yield and correlate these measurements to the salt and fertility levels of the soil. In the second year of the project, we will hold a series of five educational programs including a field-day and roundtable discussion, introducing giant miscanthus and facilitating farmer discussion. Through these activities, we will better understand if giant miscanthus is an economically feasible alternative crop for marginal land on the Eastern Shore and help introduce, educate and understand farmers’ needs and concerns with this crop going forward.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    This project seeks to:

    1)     Perform research about giant miscanthus growth on marginal land

    The field will serve as an important next step to make observations about potential issues and the outlook of this crop on marginal land. Correlations between soil moisture and soil salt content with miscanthus yield will be important for researchers to understand how this crop performs in coastal marginal land. The field will also allow researchers to study miscanthus tolerance to deer. The field-scale (10 acre) planting of miscanthus by our collaborating farmer will allow researchers to study a range of soil conditions and to study deer behavior in a realistic environment.

    2)     Foster regionally relevant education about giant miscanthus

    The planting will provide a field-scale demonstration of miscanthus for regional farmers to observe. Through field-day and workshop education events the project will educate regional farmers about this crop and facilitate a grassroots effort among farmers to discuss the viability of this crop as an option for marginal land.

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.