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Recently Bred Willow (Salix spp.) Biomass Crops Show Stable Yield Trends Over Three Rotations at Two Sites

Abstract

Yields of willow biomass crops have large impacts on production, economic, energy, and environmental assessments of these systems. Studies that report data for three or more rotations show various yield quantities and patterns, and few of these studies investigate North American cultivars. This study reports yield data from 18 willow cultivars over three rotations at two research sites (Belleville and Tully) in New York State, USA. Mean yields of the top five cultivars after three rotations were 12.5 Mg ha−1 year−1 (Belleville) and 10.8 Mg ha−1 year−1 (Tully). Seven cultivars had statistically higher yields at Belleville than at Tully. Repeated measures modeling indicated that site by cultivar by time interaction was present, with 13 out of 36 site-cultivar combinations showing quadratic yield trends over time, three showing linear trends, and 20 showing no trend. The large proportion of site-cultivar combinations with consistent yields indicates stability in biomass production over time. Spearman rank correlation coefficients analyzing cultivar rank after one and three rotations were 0.91 (Belleville) and 0.83 (Tully), though the highest yielding cultivars varied by site. Planting a suite of five cultivars evaluated for high yield after the first rotation led to 1.6–1.7 % losses in potential yield compared to the highest producing suite evaluated after three rotations at the same site. However, planting a suite of cultivars evaluated for high yield after the first rotation at a different site led to 10.7–13.6 % losses in potential yield with considerable economic consequences.

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Notes

  1. All yield figures are given as oven dry weights (0 % free moisture) except if noted.

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Acknowledgments

Special thanks to Dr. Steve Stehman of SUNY ESF for his assistance with the statistical analysis. Thanks also to Belleville Henderson Central School in Belleville, NY, which has made land available for the willow trial there and has supported its maintenance. This study would not have been possible without the foundational work on willow biomass crops in North America done by Drs. Edwin White and Lawrence Abrahamson. Breeding work for many of the cultivars in this trial was completed by Dr. Richard Kopp with assistance from Drs. Larry Smart and Lawrence Abrahamson.

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Correspondence to Timothy A. Volk.

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Essential funding to maintain and monitor these plots 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. Support for the initial establishment of these trials was provided by USDA AFRI and the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA). Additional funding for the research project assistantship of N. J. Sleight has come from the NEWBio Research Consortium which is supported by the US Department of Agriculture National Institute of Food and Agriculture under Grant number 2012-68005-19703. T. A. Volk is a co-inventor on the patents for the following willow cultivars that are included in these trials: Tully Champion (US PP 17,946), Fish Creek (US PP 17,710), Millbrook (US PP 17,646), Oneida (US PP 17,682), Otisco (US PP 17,997), Canastota (US PP 17,724), and Owasco (US PP 17,845).

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Sleight, N.J., Volk, T.A. Recently Bred Willow (Salix spp.) Biomass Crops Show Stable Yield Trends Over Three Rotations at Two Sites. Bioenerg. Res. 9, 782–797 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12155-016-9726-2

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Keywords

  • Shrub willow
  • Biomass yield
  • Short-rotation woody crops
  • Repeated measures modeling