Improving Yields of Poplar and Willow Energy Plantations

Energy crop growers need advice about proven clones and production systems in order to sustainably produce the feedstock required by the emerging bio-energy industry.

Research question

The most promising varieties of willow and poplar from regional breeding programs need to be tested locally in large plot plantings in order to establish reliable estimates of yield. This would also produce sufficient material to allow for testing of wood physical and chemical properties. In addition, the sustainability of energy plantations will rely on balancing energy and cost inputs with yields. Choosing optimal planting densities, weed control methods, and fertilizer regimes will determine the success or failure of these systems. This research will help to determine the optimal clones to grow for use as biofuel and the best strategies for growing them in Michigan.



Researchers have begun to address these questions using a single study location in Escanaba, MI. Growth data from poplar and willow clonal yield trials has been collected at this location over the last decade. Experimental plantations were recently harvested and final weight data has been recorded; individual biomass yield equations will be developed for poplars to determine which varieties are most effective at producing biomass in this region of Michigan. Researchers have also conducted pre-emergence applications of five different herbicides on newly planted willow at the Escanaba site in order to examine successful weed control methods.

Continuing research will build on the work begun in Escanaba, MI. Twenty promising willow clones and ten promising poplar clones will be planted in large-plot trials on five sites in Michigan. Additional spacing, fertilizer, and herbicide tests for poplar, willow, and silver maple energy crops will be established.


Progress and Results

Researchers have collected initial data from field trials in Escanaba, and data analysis from these collections is proceeding.  Plans for additional field trials are underway.