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You are here: NRS Home / Research Programs /Forest Disturbance Processes / Air, water, and soils pollution / Salt Tolerance and Salinity Thresholds of Woody Energy Crops Irrigated with High-salinity Waste Waters
Forest Disturbance Processes

Salt Tolerance and Salinity Thresholds of Woody Energy Crops Irrigated with High-salinity Waste Waters

[photo:] Poplar irrigated with high-salinity landfill leachate. Research Issue

There is a need for environmental practices that merge intensive forestry with waste management. Producing short rotation woody crops for energy, fiber, and environmental benefits requires adequate irrigation and fertilization, which can be supplied via wastewaters including landfill leachate. Yet, leachate often contains elevated levels of salts such as chloride and sodium that cause leaf chlorosis and necrosis, decreased biomass accumulation, and increased mortality. Therefore, there is a pressing need to learn about the response of poplar energy crops when salts are taken up into root, leaf, and woody (stem + branch) tissues, as well as identifying thresholds of salt concentrations and salinity that can be recommended for these crops in both field testing and production plantations.

Our Research

After years of genotypic screening in the greenhouse, we tested the uptake and distribution of chloride and sodium into root, leaf, and woody tissues of poplar genotypes that were irrigated with fertilized well water (control) (N, P, K) or municipal solid waste landfill leachate at the Oneida County Landfill in northern Wisconsin. Clones responded differently to water and leachate irrigation, with broad variation in both tissue concentration of chloride and sodium and overall biomass production. In order to identify salinity thresholds, we are conducting additional greenhouse testing by subjecting the trees to highly variable, yet known, salt concentrations. Salt balances are also being developed.

Expected Outcomes

Our results are being used to refine salinity thresholds for volumes of leachate that can be applied without the risk of leaching into the soil and groundwater. Although the impacts of soil salinity on ecosystem health are not as widespread in Wisconsin relative to other areas of North America, human activities have introduced increased salts into areas desired for plant growth and environmental sustainability. These areas include roadsides impacted from deicing salts, agricultural fields needing extensive irrigation, and sites utilizing specialized irrigation regimes such as municipal solid waste landfills.  Projects of this nature will benefit from poplar genotypes that are able to tolerate and sequester high amounts of chloride and sodium in root, leaf, and woody tissues, thereby expressing the necessary economic (woody biomass) and environmental (uptake) response for managed experimental and production plantations. 

Research Results

Zalesny, R.S., Jr.; Zalesny, J.A.; Wiese, A.H.; Birr, B. 2011. Sodium and chloride uptake of Populus energy crops grown with high-salinity irrigation. In: Annual General Meetings of the Poplar Council of Canada, International Poplar Commission (FAO) – Environmental Applications Working Party, and the Poplar Council of the United States: Poplars and Willows on the Prairies – Traditional Practices meet Innovative Applications; September 18-24, 2011; Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.

Zalesny, R.S., Jr.; Zalesny, J.A.; Wiese, A.H.; Birr, B. 2011. The fate of salts into Populus tree tissues during early growth. In: 8th Conference of the International Phytotechnology Society: Putting Plants to Work Where We Live, Labor, Breathe, and Play; September 13-16, 2011; Portland, OR.

Zalesny, R.S., Jr.; Zalesny, J.A.; Wiese, A.H.; Birr, B.A. 2010. Sodium and chloride uptake of Populus energy crops during early establishment. In: 7th International Conference on Phytotechnologies; September 25-29, 2010; Parma, Italy.

Mirck, J.; Zalesny, R.S., Jr.; Dimitriou, I.; Zalesny, J.A.; Volk, T.A.; Mabee, W.E. 2009. Electrical conductivity as a salt stress indicator for short rotation willows and poplars. In: Sixth International Phytotechnologies Conference; December 2-4, 2009; St. Louis, MO. p 68.

Zalesny, J.A.; Zalesny, R.S. Jr. 2009. Chloride and sodium uptake potential over an entire rotation of Populus irrigated with landfill leachate. International Journal of Phytoremediation 11:496-508.

Zalesny, J.A.; Zalesny, R.S., Jr. 2008. Potential chloride and sodium uptake for 2- to 11-year-old Populus irrigated with landfill leachate in the North Central United States. In: Biofuels, bioenergy, and bioproducts from sustainable agricultural and forest crops: proceedings of the Short Rotation Crops International Conference; August 18-22, 2008; Bloomington, MN. Gen Tech Report NRS-P-31. Newtown Square, PA; U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Northern Research Station. p 71.

Zalesny, J.A.; Zalesny, R.S., Jr.; Coyle, D.R.; Hall, R.B.; Bauer, E.O. 2009. Clonal variation in morphology of Populus root systems following irrigation with landfill leachate or water during two years of establishment. BioEnergy Research 2:134-143.

Zalesny, J.A.; Zalesny, R.S., Jr.; Coyle, D.R.; Hall, R.B.; Bauer, E.O. 2008. Populus root system morphology during phytoremediation of landfill leachate. In: Biofuels, bioenergy, and bioproducts from sustainable agricultural and forest crops: proceedings of the Short Rotation Crops International Conference; August 18-22, 2008; Bloomington, MN. Gen Tech Report NRS-P-31. Newtown Square, PA; U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Northern Research Station. p 70.

Zalesny, J.A.; Zalesny, R.S., Jr.; Wiese, A.H.; Sexton, B.; Hall, R.B. 2008. Sodium and chloride accumulation in leaf, woody, and root tissue of Populus after irrigation with landfill leachate. Environmental Pollution 155:72-80.

Zalesny, J.A.; Zalesny, R.S., Jr.; Wiese, A.H.; Sexton, B.T.; Hall, R.B. 2008. Uptake of macro- and micro-nutrients into leaf, woody, and root tissue of Populus after irrigation with landfill leachate. Journal of Sustainable Forestry 27:303-327.

Zalesny, R.S., Jr.; Zalesny, J.A. 2008. Variation in lateral and basal adventitious rooting of Populus irrigated with landfill leachate: selection of favorable genotypes for environmental benefits. In: Biofuels, bioenergy, and bioproducts from sustainable agricultural and forest crops: proceedings of the Short Rotation Crops International Conference; August 18-22, 2008; Bloomington, MN. Gen Tech Report NRS-P-31. Newtown Square, PA; U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Northern Research Station. p 73.

Zalesny, J.A.; Zalesny, R.S., Jr.; Coyle, D.R.; Hall, R.B. 2007. Growth and biomass of Populus irrigated with landfill leachate. Forest Ecology and Management 248:143-152.

Zalesny, J.A.; Zalesny, R.S., Jr.; Coyle, D.R.; Hall, R.B. 2007. Leaf, woody, and root biomass of Populus irrigated with landfill leachate. In: 2007 Annual Meeting of the Poplar Council of Canada: Poplar culture: a collaborative effort from clone to mill; September 16-21, 2007; Quebec City, Quebec, Canada. p 69.

Zalesny, J.A.; Zalesny, R.S., Jr.; Wiese, A.H.; Hall, R.B. 2007. Choosing tree genotypes for phytoremediation of landfill leachate using phyto-recurrent selection. International Journal of Phytoremediation 9:513-530.

Zalesny, J.A.; Zalesny, R.S., Jr.; Wiese, A.H.; Sexton, B.; Hall, R.B. 2007. Phytoaccumulation of sodium and chloride into leaf, woody, and root tissue of Populus irrigated with landfill leachate. In: Fourth International Phytotechnologies Conference; September 24-26, 2007; Denver, CO. p 39.

Zalesny, J.A.; Zalesny, R.S., Jr.; Wiese, A.H.; Sexton, B.; Hall, R.B. 2007. Macro- and micro-nutrient concentration in leaf, woody, and root tissue of Populus irrigated with landfill leachate. In: Fourth International Phytotechnologies Conference; September 24-26, 2007; Denver, CO. p 146.

Zalesny, J.A.; Zalesny, R.S., Jr.; Wiese, A.H.; Sexton, B.; Hall, R.B. 2007. Sodium and chloride concentration in leaf, woody, and root tissue of Populus irrigated with landfill leachate. In: 2007 Annual Meeting of the Poplar Council of Canada: Poplar culture: a collaborative effort from clone to mill; September 16-21, 2007; Quebec City, Quebec, Canada. p 71.

Zalesny, J.A.; Zalesny, R.S., Jr.; Wiese, A.H.; Hall, R.B.; Sexton, B. 2006. Phytoremediation of landfill leachate using Populus. In: Seventh Biennial Conference of the Short Rotation Woody Crops Operations Working Group: Short rotation woody crop production systems for wood products, bioenergy and environmental services; September 25-28, 2006; Pasco, WA. p 52.

Zalesny, J.A.; Zalesny, R.S., Jr.; Wiese, A.H.; Hall, R.B. 2006. Using Phyto-recurrent selection to choose Populus genotypes for phytoremediation of landfill leachate. In: Seventh Biennial Conference of the Short Rotation Woody Crops Operations Working Group: Short rotation woody crop production systems for wood products, bioenergy and environmental services; September 25-28, 2006; Pasco, WA. p 51.

Research Participants

Principal Investigators

  • Ronald S. Zalesny Jr., USDA Forest Service Northern Research Station - Research Plant Geneticist
  • Jill A. Zalesny, US Forest Service Northern Research Station- Research Volunteer (Plant Physiologist)

Research Partners

  • Edmund O. Bauer, US Forest Service Northern Research Station- Technician Emeritus
  • Richard B. Hall, Iowa State University, Department of Natural Resource Ecology and Management, Ames, IA
  • David R. Coyle, University of Georgia, Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources, Athens, GA
  • Adam H. Wiese, US Forest Service Northern Research Station- Forestry Technician
  • Bruce A. Birr, US Forest Service Northern Research Station- Laboratory Technician

Last Modified: 04/09/2012

Featured Product

Zalesny, J.A.; Zalesny, R.S., Jr.; Wiese, A.H.; Sexton, B.; Hall, R.B. 2008. Sodium and chloride accumulation in leaf, woody, and root tissue of Populus after irrigation with landfill leachate. Environmental Pollution 155:72-80.

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