Short Rotation Woody Crops in the Mississippi Valley


Issue:Estimates of potential demand for renewable energy suggest that conventional forests may not be able to meet the demand for woody biomass. Short rotation woody crops could be one approach to providing more material to help meet the Nation’s energy needs.

Usually SRWC plantings would be hybrid poplar or willow grown in cycles of 3 to 7 years. However there is a lack of knowledge about how an SRWC system might be implemented in the Mississippi Valley—the growth and yield, costs, and operational requirements.

Study Description: Eastern cottonwood and black willow are native species of the lower Mississippi alluvial valley (LMAV) with potential to provide significant biomass production under short rotation growth and harvest regimes. In order to assess the economic viability of these species as woody perennial energy crops, an energy budget must be established that includes cost of planting stock, site preparation, establishment, tending and harvest costs compared to bioenergy production on areas of operational acreage.

The objective of this research is to establish plantations of these species at four planting densities suitable for varying growth and harvest regimes including early coppice and varying rotation ages.

The study includes assessment of growth and yield, quantification of energy and economic inputs, and measurement of nutrient and carbon cycling. In addition new harvesting technology will be tested to determine production costs and feedstock quality. Finally, an economic decision model will be developed to estimate ROI for landowners as a function of alternative management regimes and site conditions.

Benefits:

  • Basic growth and yield data to help define optimal management regimes
  • Quantify nutrient demands and carbon sequestration effects
  • Field demonstration of silvicultural and operational methods
  • Decision tool for landowners

Cooperators:
Mississippi State University, Louisiana Tech University, Center for Forest Watershed Research, the Center for Bottomland Hardwoods Research and the Forest Operations Research Unit

Contacts: Ted Leininger—USDA Forest Service, Southern Research Station