Switching it up with switchgrass

By Matthew Sylvester, Special to The Record

Switchgrass is a crop that hails from the prairies of midwestern Canada and the United States, but it’s recently taken the long trek to the Townships to end up in the fields of Henry Musty’s farm on Mitchell street in Cookshire.
“It’s just so easy to grow.” Said Musty, when asked why he was such a big proponent of the perennial grass. “You don’t need to plow or till after the first year.” He explained that the extensive rootstock that takes hold a year after the switchgrass is planted means it can regrow every spring for over a decade before needing to be maintained.
Because of how densely the roots of the grass grow together, it’s almost impossible for other plants to take root. This acts as a natural herbicide to keep the weeds away, because nothing else is able to get the nutrients needed through the thick root system of switchgrass.
Unlike straw, which ends up being a very similar product after being harvested and separated from the grain, switchgrass can easily be certified as organic because of its lack of need for weed killing chemicals during its growth. Organic farmers buy his bales for use as bedding for animals and as a mulch for gardens.
As well as having uses in the organic agricultural industry, switchgrass fills a niche in the construction of houses built using only natural materials. As it turns out, the grass is on par with fibreglass insulation when dried and baled. Musty has already supplied multiple home projects with his grass for use as insulation.
While Musty’s neighbor Daniel Clément supplies companies in the States with larger bales that get mixed in with silage for cows, Musty is the only grower in the region who makes the small bales used for insulation.

For full story and others, subscribe now.

Share this article