Early Clonal Survival and Growth of Poplars Grown on North Carolina Piedmont and Mountain Marginal Lands
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The western half of North Carolina has abundant marginal pasturelands that vary greatly in altitude. Studies have demonstrated high Populus productivity on coastal plains and eastern Piedmont regions. Our objective was to identify best-performing Populus clones on marginal pasturelands representing upper Piedmont (Salisbury, 215 m above sea level, m.a.s.l.), northern Blue Ridge Mountains (Laurel Springs, 975 m.a.s.l.), and southern Blue Ridge Mountains (Mills River, 630 m.a.s.l.). At Salisbury, height and basal diameter (BD) were significantly related to clones (p < 0.0001), and some clones were affected by clone-spacing interaction while spacing affected aboveground wood volume significantly (p < 0.0001). At Mills River, clonal survival (p < 0.0011), height, and volume (p < 0.0051) varied with contrasting significance of some clonal differences between spacings. At Laurel Springs, survival varied among clones in 1 m × 1 m spacing (p = 0.003) but not 2 m × 2 m spacing while heights and volumes differed in both spacings (p < 0.0058). Clone 185 was consistently in the top 10 % for height, BD, and survival at all sites and spacings while other clones performed variably. Height-BD regressions were affected by clones, spacing, and sites. Volume had no clear correlations with precipitation, photosynthetically active radiation, temperature, and altitude across sites while height correlated with precipitation. Our results compared favorably with published results in other US regions, and show short rotation poplars have efficacy in Piedmont and mountain regions if the right clones in terms of growth/productivity, survival, and disease resistance are selected. Larger clonal performance variations are expected as competition increases, and highlight importance of experimentally determining suitable clones for specific sites.
KeywordsBioenergy feedstock Blue Ridge Mountains Marginal lands Genomic groups Piedmont Site adaptability
We would like to express our gratitude to the former Biofuels Center of North Carolina (Grant no.: 2013–351) and NORTH CAROLINA Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (NCDA&CS) Bioenergy Research Initiatives (Grant no.: G40100278914RSD) for funding, Arborgen, LLC and GreenWood Resources for their technical support and supplying trees and NCDA&CS’s Piedmont Research Station, Mountain Horticultural Crops Research and Extension Center and Upper Mountain Research Station for accommodating our trials and for their assistances in managing the sites. We would also like to thank Corey Sugerik for his assistance in site and data management and Alex Ewald, Emily Love, Jeffrey Olson, Mathew Davis, and Amber Bledsoe for their assistance during data collection.
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