Adaptability of Populus to physiography and growing conditions in the southeastern USA
Populus species have a high productivity potential as short-rotation woody crops, provided that site-suitable varieties are planted. The Coastal Plain, the Piedmont, and the Blue Ridge Mountains make up a significant part of the eastern and southeastern USA, and an insight into poplar productivity and adaptability will be valuable for the successful implementation of large-scale poplar stands in these regions. The objectives of this study were to examine the green wood biomass (hereafter biomass), biomass allocation, and wood properties of poplars in relation to growing conditions, physiography, and topography. The biomass of 4-year-old poplars was estimated using an equation derived through destructive sampling. Biomass-based clonal rankings were compared across the various site conditions (fertility, irrigation, land marginality, soil preparation, and topography) and the three physiographic provinces. Although not all clonal differences in biomass were significant, growing conditions, physiography, and soil preparation affected the clonal rankings and the significance of the clonal differences. Biomass changes due to physiography and land conditions were more structured at the genomic-group level. A higher-altitude physiography led to greater biomass increases in Populus trichocarpa x Populus deltoids (TD) clones than in P. deltoids x P. deltoids (DD) clones and vice versa. Favorable soil quality or management generally led to greater biomass of DD clones than of TD and P. deltoids x Populus maximowiczii (DM) clones. Weather-related variables were not clearly correlated with biomass, while land aspect was a significant influence on the biomass of genomic groups and clones. The site significantly affected wood density, moisture content, and carbon and nitrogen concentrations, while the clonal effects on wood composition and the clonal and site effects on biomass allocation were insignificant. Although clones showing greater biomass responses to growing conditions generally belonged to the same genomic group, clone-level selection could produce greater biomass gains than selection at the genomic-group level.