, Volume 2, Issue 3, pp 144-152

Short-Rotation Coppice of Willow for Phytoremediation of a Metal-Contaminated Agricultural Area: A Sustainability Assessment

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Large areas of land contaminated with cadmium (Cd), lead (Pb), and zinc (Zn) are currently in agricultural production in the Campine region in Belgium. Cadmium contents in food and fodder crops frequently exceed legal threshold values, resulting in crop confiscation. This imposes a burden on agriculture and regional policy and, therefore, encourages proper soil management. One way to increase agricultural income and improve soil quality is by growing alternative nonfood crops such as willows in short-rotation coppice (SRC) systems that remediate the soil. This paper compares SRC of willow with rapeseed and energy maize regarding four attributes: metal accumulation capacity, gross agricultural income per hectare, CO2 emission avoidance potential, and agricultural acceptance. Based on multicriteria decision analysis, we conclude that, although SRC of willow has a high potential as an energy and remediating crop, it is unlikely to be implemented on the short term in Flanders unless the economic incentives for the farmers are improved.