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You are here: NRS Home / Research Programs /Sustaining Forests / Methods to conserve and enhance forest resources / Feedstocks for bioenergy / Predicting and Mapping Biomass of Poplar Energy Crops in the North Central United States
Sustaining Forests

Predicting and Mapping Biomass of Poplar Energy Crops in the North Central United States

Research Issue

[photo:] Poplar biomass that is ready to be processed into plywood.Populus species and hybrids (i.e., poplars) have demonstrated high yield potential in the North Central United States as short-rotation woody crops (SRWCs). However, the ability to predict biomass yields for sites not currently in SRWCs is limited. As a result, stakeholders are also limited in their ability to evaluate different areas within the region as potential supply sheds for wood-based bioenergy facilities. A reliable method for predicting biomass productivity across the region is needed; preferably, such a method will also lend itself to generating yield maps that stakeholders can readily use to inform their decision-making processes.

Our Research

To achieve the needs described above, the Physiological Process Predicting Growth (3-PG) model was (i) parameterized for poplars using species-specific physiological data and allometric relationships from previously-published studies, (ii) calibrated for the North Central region using previously-published yield data from eight plantations along with site-specific climate and soils data, (iii) validated against previously-published yield data from four other plantations using linear regression of actual versus predicted biomass, and (iv) evaluated for sensitivity of the model to manipulation of parameters important for growth and development. We are also incorporating GIS data from soil and climate layers (32-kilometer grids) into the model to produce a map of predicted biomass yields for the states of Minnesota and Wisconsin, USA.

Expected Outcomes

This information is important for industry leaders, policymakers, and resource managers when making decisions whether to site bioenergy facilities in areas where limited yield data are available. Reliable productivity estimates are also very important for economic analyses associated with siting such facilities, as well as informing life cycle analyses and the development of enterprise budgets. Researchers will gain vital information for understanding genotype × environment interactions to make decisions on what varieties should be grown in specific locations.   

Research Results

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.

Zalesny, R.S. Jr.; Hall, R.B.; Zalesny, J.A.; McMahon, B.G.; Berguson, W.E.; Stanosz, G.R. 2009. Biomass and genotype × environment interactions of Populus energy crops in the Midwestern United States. BioEnergy Research 2:106-122.

Zalesny, R.S. Jr.; Hall, R.B.; Zalesny, J.A.; Berguson, W.E.; McMahon, B.G.; Stanosz, G.R. 2008. Biomass potential of Populus in the Midwestern 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 72.

Research Participants

Principal Investigators

  • William L. Headlee, Iowa State University, Department of Natural Resource Ecology and Management, Ames, IA
  • Ronald S. Zalesny Jr., US Forest Service Northern Research Station- Team Leader, Research Plant Geneticist
  • Deahn M. Donner, US Forest Service Northern Research Station - Research Ecologist

Research Partners

  • David R. Coyle, University of Georgia, Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources, Athens, GA
  • Richard B. Hall, Iowa State University, Department of Natural Resource Ecology and Management, Ames, IA

Last Modified: 03/23/2012

Related IAES Research
Featured Publication

Zalesny, R.S. Jr.; Hall, R.B.; Zalesny, J.A.; McMahon, B.G.; Berguson, W.E.; Stanosz, G.R. 2009. Biomass and genotype × environment interactions of Populus energy crops in the Midwestern United States. BioEnergy Research 2:106-122.