February 5, 2014 Edition

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Eric Hendrickson of Strawberry uses a specialized cutting Massey Ferguson implement to harvest miscanthus. He goes over each row twice to break or condition the miscanthus for baling.

New crop is harvested in LawCo.

Devon Bryant of Jonesboro shows how the cane-like miscanthus is broken or conditioned before being baled.

Blake Cox of Cox Implement Co. in Hoxie shows the height of this field of miscanthus before it is harvested on Hwy. 91 in Egypt, near the border of Lawrence and Craighead counties. This miscanthus measured to be 11 feet tall.

John Bland

In fields around Northeast Arkansas, including one in Egypt in Lawrence County, a crop new to this area is being harvested. The crop is miscanthus, which is being grown as an alternate and renewable source of bio-fuel.

Pieces of root and stem, called rhizome, are planted to grow the miscanthus, which is a cane-type perennial grass, which has also been used as an ornamental grass in landscaping. After planting, the miscanthus takes two years before it is ready for its first harvest, which is usually done in late winter.

On Wednesday of last week, Devon Bryant of Jonesboro was operating a baler. He said conditions were just right for harvest, with the ground still hard from below-freezing weather. He said that he, along with Eric Hendrickson of Strawberry, who was cutting the miscanthus, would probably work through the night to complete the field before forecasted rains arrived later in the week.

Bryant and Hendrickson were using specialized Massey Ferguson equipment to harvest the crop. Blake Cox of Cox Implement Co. in Hoxie showed the rows of blades and rollers used to cut and condition the miscanthus before it is baled. Traditional hay baling equipment is not adequate to handle the miscanthus canes, which measure from 10 to 12 feet tall.

Bryant and Hendrickson were contracted through MFA Oil Biomass to harvest the crop. Bryant said they were harvesting about 50 acres a day, with 10 bales to an acre for a total of 500 bales a day.

Cox and Bryant explained that the baler, loaded with heavy twine to tie the bales, gives the exact weight and moisture content of each bale on a printed label.

Tim Wooldridge of Paragould, former state senator, is MFA Oil Biomass Northeast Arkansas project manager. He previously stated that miscanthus is now being grown on some 7,000 acres in eight counties in Northeast Arkansas with several hundred acres being grown in the Strawberry area of Lawrence County.

After harvest, the miscanthus bales were being transported to a storage facility in Corning and then eventually will be made into pellets for a bio-fuel or various other uses.

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