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Sustaining Forests

Predicting and Mapping Biomass of Poplar Energy Crops

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 (SRWC). However, the ability to predict biomass yields for sites not currently in SRWC 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 Principles 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 also incorporated 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. These data are also important for national-level feedstock assessments, such as the Billion Ton Report and its revisions.   

Research Results

Headlee, W.L.; Zalesny, R.S., Jr.; Hall, R.B.; Bauer, E.O.; Birr, B.A.; Randall, J.A.; Wiese, A.H. 2014. Aboveground biomass production and carbon sequestration of 12 hybrid poplar genotypes harvested from 17 sites in the north-central USA. In: International Poplar Symposium VI; July 20-23, 2014; Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.

Headlee, W.L., Zalesny, R.S., Jr.; Hall, R.B.; Bauer, E.O.; Birr, B.A.; Randall, J.A.; Wiese, A.H. 2014. Influences of site conditions and clonal selection on hybrid poplar biomass growth and carbon content in the upper Midwest, USA. In: 10th Biennial Conference of the Short Rotation Woody Crops Operations Working Group; July 17-19, 2014; Seattle, WA, USA.

Zalesny, R.S., Jr.; Headlee, W.L. 2014. Developing woody crops for the enhancement of ecosystem services under changing climates in the North Central United States. In: International Symposium on Tree Breeding Strategies to Cope with Climate Change; September 15-19, 2014; Suwon, Republic of Korea.

Headlee, W.L.; Zalesny, R.S.; Jr.; Hall, R.B.; Bauer, E.O.; Bender, B.; Birr, B.A.; Miller, R.O.; Randall, J.A.; Wiese, A.H. 2013. Specific gravity of hybrid poplars in the north-central region, USA: within-tree variability and site × genotype effects. Forests 4:251-269.

Headlee, William L.; Zalesny, Ronald S., Jr.; Donner, Deahn M.; Hall, Richard B. 2013. Using a process-based model (3-PG) to predict and map hybrid poplar biomass productivity in Minnesota and Wisconsin, USA. BioEnergy Research. 6: 196-210.

Zalesny, R.S., Jr.; Coyle, D.R. 2013. Short Rotation Populus: A Bibliography of North American Literature, 1989 – 2011. Gen. Tech. Report NRS-P-110. Newtown Square, PA; U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Northern Research Station. p 103.

Zalesny, R.S., Jr.; Headlee, W.L. 2013. Poplar energy crop development in the North Central United States: biomass supply potential and ecosystem services. In: IBBC 2003 – TAPPI International Bioenergy and Bioproducts Conference: A Fresh Look at Biomass Utilization; September 18-20, 2013; Green Bay, WI, USA.

Headlee, W.L.; Zalesny, R.S., Jr.; Hall, R.B.; Donner, D.M. 2012. Using the 3-PG model to predict and map hybrid poplar biomass productivity in Minnesota and Wisconsin. In: 9th Biennial Conference of the Short Rotation Woody Crops Operations Group; November 5-8, 2012; Oak Ridge, TN, USA. pp 15-16.

Zalesny, R.S., Jr. 2012. Woody feedstock production for bioenergy and environmental sustainability in the North Central United States. In: 3rd Pan American Congress on Plants and Bioenergy; July 15-18, 2012; Urbana-Champaign, Illinois.

Zalesny, R.S., Jr.; Coyle, D.R.; Donner, D.M.; Headlee, W.L. 2012. Identifying suitable areas for woody crop production systems in Wisconsin and Minnesota to maximize productivity, increase ecosystem services and meet energy feedstock demands. Unpublished final research report to Wisconsin’s Focus on Energy, Madison, WI. 62 p.

Zalesny, R.S., Jr.; Donner, D.M.; Coyle, D.R.; Headlee W.L. 2012. An approach for siting poplar energy production systems to increase productivity and associated ecosystem services. In: 9th Biennial Conference of the Short Rotation Woody Crops Operations Group; November 5-8, 2012; Oak Ridge, TN, USA. p 28.

Zalesny, R.S., Jr.; Donner, D.M.; Coyle, D.R.; Headlee, W.L. 2012. An approach for siting poplar energy production systems to increase productivity and associated ecosystem services. Forest Ecology and Management 284:45-58.

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

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
  • Deahn M. Donner, US Forest Service Northern Research Station- Research Ecologist

Last Modified: November 16, 2016