An Approach for Siting Poplar Energy Production Systems to Increase Productivity and Associated Ecosystem Services
Short rotation woody crops (SRWC) such as Populus species and hybrids (i.e., poplars) are renewable energy feedstocks that can potentially be used to offset electricity generation and natural gas use in many temperate regions, such as Wisconsin and Minnesota, USA. Highly productive poplars grown primarily on marginal agricultural sites are an important component of our future Midwest energy portfolio. Additionally, poplars can be strategically placed in the landscape to conserve soil and water, recycle nutrients, and sequester carbon. These purpose-grown trees are vital to reducing our dependence on non-renewable and foreign sources of energy used for heat and power. Establishing poplar genotypes that are adapted to local environmental conditions substantially increases establishment success and productivity. But, it is difficult to predict field trial success in landscapes where the crop has not been previously deployed.
We are merging knowledge of poplar biology with large-scale spatial analysis to predefine zones of potential plant adaptation that are ecologically sustainable and economically feasible across the landscape. The project builds on SRWC research conducted at our Institute since 1968, as well as decades of poplar genetics research in Minnesota that has led to commercial poplar production on >10,000 ha in the state. Along with empirical data on poplar growth and productivity collected in both states, we are combining key climatic and soil properties with land ownership and use constraints to develop a GIS-based spatial analysis protocol to identify candidate areas for potential establishment. Lastly, we are evaluating land-use, soil health, and water quality changes within these areas to synthesize the environmental and social constraints on woody energy crop development within the region.
Our approach is novel in that it integrates genetics and landscape ecology, so that sustainable crop development can be more rapid, precise, and efficient. This type of approach has never been conducted for woody energy crop production. Landowners and industrial representatives will use the results of the study to evaluate trade-offs of woody energy crop production versus other uses, while researchers will benefit from the development of the protocol and availability of the soil and water synthesis that is currently not available.
Zalesny, R.S., Jr.; Donner, D.M.; Coyle, D.R.; Headlee, W.L.; Hall, R.B. 2011. Regional sustainability analysis of siting Populus energy crops in the Midwest, USA. 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.; Donner, D.M. 2010. Land-use, soil health, and water quality changes with woody energy crop production in Wisconsin and Minnesota. pgs. 81-82. Review of notable federal research activities related to biofuels and sustainability. In: Expanding Biofuel Production and the Transition to Advanced Biofuels: Lessons for Sustainability from the Upper Midwest. P. Koshel and K. McAllister, rapporteurs. Summary of a workshop held on June 23-24, 2009: Madison, WI. National Research Council of the National Academies. The National Academies Press, Washington, D.C.
Donner, D.M.; Zalesny, R.S., Jr. 2010. Potential land-use changes with woody energy crop production in Wisconsin and Minnesota. In: 2010 US-IALE Twenty-fifth Anniversary Symposium: Is What Humans Do Natural?; April 5-9, 2010; Athens, GA.
Donner, D.M.; Zalesny, R.S., Jr. 2010. Using spatial analysis to develop protocol for optimizing testing, siting, and productivity of poplar energy crops at regional scales. In: International Energy Agency Bioenergy Conference; Sustainability Across the Supply Chain of Land-based Biomass. June 1-4, 2010; Kamloops, BC, Canada.
Zalesny, R.S., Jr.; Donner, D.M.; Coyle, D.R.; Headlee, W.L.; Hall, R.B. 2010. An approach for siting poplar energy production systems to increase productivity and associated ecosystem services. In: Fifth International Poplar Symposium: Poplars and Willows: From Research Models to Multipurpose Trees for a Biobased Society; September 20-25, 2010; Orvieto, Italy. p 110.
Zalesny, R.S., Jr.; Donner, D.M.; Coyle, D.R.; Headlee, W.L.; Hall, R.B. 2010. A protocol for identifying suitable testing and deployment sites of poplar energy production systems in the Midwest, USA. In: 8th Biennial Short Rotation Woody Crops Operations Working Group Conference: Short Rotation Woody Crops in a Renewable Energy Future: Challenges and Opportunities; October 17-21, 2010; Syracuse, NY. p 18.
- Ronald S. Zalesny Jr., USDA Forest Service Northern Research Station- Team Leader, Research Plant Geneticist
- Deahn M. Donner, USDA Forest Service Northern Research Station - Research Ecologist
- David R. Coyle, University of Georgia, Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources, Athens, GA
- William L. Headlee, Iowa State University, Department of Natural Resource Ecology and Management, Ames, IA
- Richard B. Hall, Iowa State University, Department of Natural Resource Ecology and Management, Ames, IA
- Raymond O. Miller, Michigan State University, Upper Peninsula Tree Improvement Center, Escanaba, MI
- Brian Stanton, GreenWood Resources, Inc., Portland, OR
- William E. Berguson, University of Minnesota, Natural Resources Research Institute, Duluth, MN
Last Modified: 03/22/2012