Sprigger's Choice perfects miscanthus planters, harvesters

By Anna Austin | March 03, 2011

A Georgia-based company is attracting a great deal of attention for its miscanthus planting and harvesting equipment designs.

Those involved in the Southern U.S. sod industry are likely familiar with Sprigger’s Choice owner and industry veteran Jesse Grimsley and his company. After running Grimsley’s Sprigging Service Inc., a custom planting business, for more than 18 years, Grimsley passed the business on to his son to allow himself more time to focus on developing sprigging equipment designed by Sprigger’s Choice Inc. at Dawson, Ga.

During the past few years, Grimsley has been working with energy crop industry members—including Show Me Energy Co-op founder Steve Flick and Repreve Renewables CEO Phillip Jennings—on tweaking equipment designs to bring the planters and harvesters to the developing miscanthus industry.

Recently, Sprigger’s Choice held a field day at Futral Farm near Dawson, where the company used its machines to test harvest and transplant some four-year-old miscanthus, and planted a few acres no-till and conventional. “We also tried out our undercut lift plow, which goes in ahead of the rhizome harvester and undercuts the roots and loosens the ground so the harvester doesn’t have such a hard time digging,” Grimsley said.

He pointed out that though the equipment was originally designed for a different purpose, the company has added some features to make it work better with miscanthus.

Grimsley said the machines have been selling, both in and outside of the U.S. “We just sold five to a customer here in the U.S., and we have a machine going to Canada in two weeks to an independent farmer plating about 500 acres of miscanthus to heat his greenhouses with,” he said. The company’s equipment will also be used by MFA Oil and Aloterra Energy LLC’s miscanthus project (see http://biomassmagazine.com/articles/5296/mfa-oil-plans-to-use-miscanthus-for-bioenergy).

Although he’s already had a lot of interest in his equipment, Grimsley said he expects USDA’s Biomass Crop Assistance Program will intensify that interest because it provides establishment and matching payments for farmers to grow energy crops such as miscanthus. “It will make [the industry] take off because farmers as a whole are in a pretty good crunch right now,” he said.

Helping farmers get the most out of their farming operations is a big priority for Grimsley. “Though harvesting is the most difficult part, there is a lot of thought involved into how we plant miscanthus and the land preparation before planting,” he said.