Growth Variation Among Hybrid Poplar Varieties in Michigan, USA and the Implications for Commercial Biomass Production.
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Variability in biomass yield among 13 varieties of Populus hybrids was examined during a 7-year rotation in a network of 4 field trials in Michigan, USA. Seventh-year yield varied by site, averaging from 15.1 Mg ha−1 in the north to 35.2 Mg ha−1 in the south. Yield varied among varieties, ranging from 3.0 Mg ha−1 for DN70 in the north to 52.9 Mg ha−1 for NM2 in the south. Yield was most strongly correlated with growing season temperatures and rainfall but less with edaphic factors throughout the network. Twenty-eight percent of the total variation in individual tree weight was due to location effects and another 28% was due to genetic factors, including strong genotype by environment interactions. Even though each 64-tree plot comprised genetically identical clones, the remaining 44% of total observed variation among trees occurred within these plots. Five varieties that performed well throughout the network were identified as an elite cohort for general commercial use throughout the region. This cohort yielded as much as 50% more biomass than random selections. Certain varieties did well at one location while not at others because of strong genotype by environment interactions. Locally chosen elite cohorts produced as much as 5% more biomass than the regional elite cohort. Varietal ranking did change over time but it was possible to reliably identify the regional cohort after 3 years and local cohorts after 4 years. Local, long-term testing of Populus hybrids will be necessary to optimize commercial biomass yields and thereby maximize financial returns to growers.
KeywordsHybrid poplar Commercial Biomass Yield Variation
Essential funding to maintain and monitor the poplar network in Michigan over the past several years was provided by the North Central Regional Sun Grant Center at South Dakota State University through a grant provided by the US Department of Energy Bioenergy Technologies Office under award number DE-FC36-05GO85041. Additional funding was provided by Michigan State University AgBioResearch. The technical assistance of Bradford Bender, Kile Zuidema, Paul Irving, and other university staff and students during the 10 years of this project is gratefully acknowledged. Without their dedication and diligence, the data summarized here would have never been gathered and compiled.
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