Miscanthus or elephant grass as it is sometimes known is a biomass crop that originated in South East Asia. It was initially introduced into Europe as an ornamental garden plant, but over recent years has become a biomass fuel. Miscanthus is carbon neutral as the plants absorb and store carbon dioxide as they are growing. There are no fertilisers or pesticides used on the crop once it is established. This is what makes the crop so different to most conventional crops as it is energy efficient and is far more environmentally friendly. Miscanthus, once established produces a new canopy of tall bamboo-like canes each year. Although Miscanthus takes 3-4 years after sowing before mature yields are reached, this energy crop will provide a fast supply of biomass which can be harvested annually with commonly available farm machinery. Miscanthus can be burnt as chips in suitable wood chip boilers. Alternatively, Miscanthus can be burnt as bales in boilers designed for straw bales. Miscanthus can be grown on the farm to provide an additional income stream or it can be used to provide heat on the farm. Many farmers in Ireland who no longer grow sugar beat, grow mischanthus as part of the alternative land use scheme. Miscanthus is less energy dense than woodchip and because it is bulky it can be difficult to store. Nevertheless, miscanthus is a suitable fuel for your biomass boiler if you are growing it yourself or you have access to a good local supply.
Willow, like Miscanthus, is typically grown to provide an additional income stream on the farm or to generate heat on the farm. Willow can be harvested as whole stems and left to season before it is chipped. Alternatively, willow can be harvested as chips which need to be dried before use. Willow chips can be used in wood chip boilers. Willow is more energy dense than miscanthus, so it is easier to store. The only drawback of willow compare to standard woodchip is that it has more bark surface and therefore produces more ash.