BioEnergy Research

, Volume 2, Issue 3, pp 106-122

First online:

Biomass and Genotype × Environment Interactions of Populus Energy Crops in the Midwestern United States

  • Ronald S. ZalesnyJr.Affiliated withNorthern Research Station, Institute for Applied Ecosystem Studies, U.S. Forest Service Email author 
  • , Richard B. HallAffiliated withDepartment of Natural Resource Ecology and Management, Iowa State University
  • , Jill A. ZalesnyAffiliated withNorthern Research Station, Institute for Applied Ecosystem Studies, U.S. Forest Service
  • , Bernard G. McMahonAffiliated withNatural Resources Research Institute, University of Minnesota
  • , William E. BergusonAffiliated withNatural Resources Research Institute, University of Minnesota
  • , Glen R. StanoszAffiliated withDepartment of Plant Pathology, University of Wisconsin-Madison

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Using Populus feedstocks for biofuels, bioenergy, and bioproducts is becoming economically feasible as global fossil fuel prices increase. Maximizing Populus biomass production across regional landscapes largely depends on understanding genotype × environment interactions, given broad genetic variation at strategic (genomic group) and operational (clone) levels. A regional network of Populus field tests was established in the Midwest USA in 1995, 1997, and 2000 to assess relative productivity of 187 clones grown at Westport, Minnesota (45.7° N, 95.2° W); Waseca, Minnesota (only 2000; 44.1° N, 93.5° W); Arlington, Wisconsin (43.3° N, 89.4° W); and Ames, Iowa (42.0° N, 93.6° W). We evaluated biomass potential throughout plantation development and identified clones with yield substantially greater than commercial controls (Eugenei, NM6). For each site, biomass ranges (Mg ha−1 year−1) of the best six clones were: Westport: 2.3 to 3.9 (5 years), 8.0 to 10.1 (8 years), and 8.9 to 11.3 (10 years); Waseca: 10.4 to 13.4 (7 years); Arlington: 5.1 to 7.1 (3 years), 14.8 to 20.9 (6 years), and 16.1 to 21.1 (8 years); and Ames: 4.3 to 5.3 (4 years), 11.1 to 20.9 (7 years), and 14.3 to 24.5 (9 years). Mean biomass of the best three clones was 1.4 to 2.7 times greater than controls as trees developed at Westport (1995, 1997) and Waseca 2000. Genotype × environment interactions governed biomass production, with clone–mean rank correlations across sites ranging from 0.29 to 0.81. We identified generalist genotypes (e.g. Crandon, NC14105, NM2) with elevated biomass across the region and specialists (e.g. 7300501, 80X01015, and NC14103) with exceptional biomass at specific locations.


Bioenergy Feedstock development Hybrid poplar Productivity Tree improvement