Skip to main content

Productivity, Biomass Partitioning, and Energy Yield of Low-Input Short-Rotation American Sycamore (Platanus occidentalis L.) Grown on Marginal Land: Effects of Planting Density and Simulated Drought

Abstract

Short-rotation woody crops (SRWC) grown for bioenergy production are considered a more sustainable feedstock than food crops such as corn and soybean. However, to be sustainable SRWC should be deployed on land not suitable for agriculture (e.g., marginal lands). Here we quantified productivity and energy yield of four SRWC candidate species grown at different planting densities (1250, 2500, 5000, and 10,000 trees ha−1) under a low-input regime on a marginal site in the Piedmont of North Carolina and responses to reduced water availability. By the end of the first growing season, 75 to 100% tree mortality occurred in all tested species (Liquidambar styraciflua, Liriodendron tulipifera, and Populus nigra) except American sycamore (Platanus occidentalis), the productivity of which was positively affected by planting density, but unaffected by the throughfall reduction treatment. After 4 years of growth, the 10,000 trees ha−1 sycamore treatment produced smaller individual trees but the largest amount of total tree biomass (23.2 ± 0.9 Mg ha−1), which, although greater, was not significantly different from the 5000 trees ha−1 treatment (19.6 ± 1.5 Mg ha−1). The two highest planting density treatments had similar aboveground net primary productivity (ANPPwood) of 7.2 Mg ha−1 year−1. By contrast, in the 1250 and 2500 trees ha−1 treatments, ANPPwood was significantly lower, ranging from 3.4 to 5.4 Mg ha−1 year−1. Stem wood made up a majority of the biomass produced regardless of spacing density, but live branch biomass weight increased with decreasing planting density, comprising up to 31% of total aboveground biomass in the 1250 trees ha−1 treatment. Gross energy yield reached 140 GJ ha−1 year−1 for the 10,000 trees ha−1 treatment. Given this productivity, American sycamore could potentially yield 2400 (±380) L ethanol ha−1 year−1 over the first 4-year rotation. This study demonstrated that of the four species tested, only American sycamore grown on marginal land under low inputs (no fertilizer, no irrigation, limited weed control) had the capacity to successfully establish and maintain SRWC productivity, which might compare favorably with other fast-growing tree and grass species that typically require high inputs.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3
Fig. 4
Fig. 5
Fig. 6
Fig. 7

References

  1. 1.

    International Energy Agency – IEA (2007) World energy outlook world energy outlook. International Energy Agency, Paris

    Google Scholar 

  2. 2.

    Sieminski A (2016) International Energy Outlook 2016. Center for Strategic and International Studies May 11, 2016 Washington, DC

  3. 3.

    Hansen J, Kharecha P, Sato M, Masson-Delmotte V, Ackerman F et al (2013) Assessing “dangerous climate change”: required reduction of carbon emissions to protect young people, future generations and nature. PLoS One 8(12):e81648

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  4. 4.

    Princen T, Martin P, Manno J (2015) Ending the fossil fuel era. MIT Press, Cambridge, MA 374p

    Book  Google Scholar 

  5. 5.

    Lee RA, Lavoie JM (2013) From first- to third-generation biofuels: challenges of producing a commodity from a biomass of increasing complexity. Animal Frontiers 3:6–11

    Article  Google Scholar 

  6. 6.

    Balan V (2014) Current challenges in commercially producing biofuels from lignocellulosic biomass. ISRN Biotechnol 2014:1–31

    Article  Google Scholar 

  7. 7.

    Pimentel D (2003) Ethanol fuels: energy balance, economics, and environmental impacts are negative. Nat Resour Res 12:127–133

    Article  Google Scholar 

  8. 8.

    Mohr A, Raman S (2013) Lessons from first generation biofuels and implications for the sustainability appraisal of second generation biofuels. Energy Policy 63:114–122

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  9. 9.

    Johnson J, Coleman M, Gesch R, Jaradat A, Mitchell R, Reicosky D et al (2007) Biomass-bioenergy crops in the United States: a changing paradigm. Am J Science Biotech 1:1–28

    Google Scholar 

  10. 10.

    Liptow C, Tillman AM, Janssen M, Wallberg O, Taylor GA (2013) Ethylene based on woody biomass-what are environmental key issues of a possible future Swedish production on industrial scale. Int J Life Cycle Assess 18:1071–1081

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  11. 11.

    Djomo SN, El Kasmioui O, De Groote T, Broeckx LS, Verlinden MS, Berhongaray G, Fichot R, Zona D, Dillen SY, King JS, Janssens JA, Ceulemans R (2013) Energy and climate benefits of bioelectricity from low-input short rotation woody crops on agricultural land over a two-year rotation. Appl Energy 111:862–870

    Article  Google Scholar 

  12. 12.

    Lemus R, Lal R (2005) Bioenergy crops and carbon sequestration. Critical Rev Plant Sci 24:1–21

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  13. 13.

    Ryan MG, Harmon ME, Birdsey RA, Giardina CP, Heath LS, Houghton RA, Jackson RB, McKinley DC, Morrison JF, Murray BC, Pataki DE, Skog KE (2010) A synthesis of the science on forests and carbon for US forests. Issues Ecology 13:1–16

    Google Scholar 

  14. 14.

    Richter DD, Markewitz D (2002) Understanding soil change: soil sustainability over millennia, centuries, and decades. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, p 255

    Google Scholar 

  15. 15.

    Dale VH, Kline KL, Wright LL, Perlack RD, Downing M, Graham RL (2011) Interactions among bioenergy feedstock choices, landscape dynamics, and land use. Ecol Appl 21:1039–1054

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  16. 16.

    Gopalakrishnan G, Cristina NM, Snyder SW (2011) A novel framework to classify marginal land for sustainable biomass feedstock production. J Environ Qual 40:593e1600

    Article  Google Scholar 

  17. 17.

    Wear D, Abt R, Alavalapati J, Comatas G, Countess M, McDow W (2010) The South’s outlook for sustainable forest bioenergy and biofuels production. The Pinchot Institute Report, Washington, DC

    Google Scholar 

  18. 18.

    Costanza J K, Abt RC, McKerrow A J, Collazo JA (2016) Bioenergy production and forest landscape change in the southeastern United States. GCB Bioenergy. In press. Doi 10.1111/gcbb.12386

  19. 19.

    Burke S, Hall BR, Shahbazi G, Tolson EN, Wynne JC (2007) North Carolina’s Strategic Plan for Biofuels Leadership. Environmental Review Commission, North Carolina General Assembly, Raleigh, NC

  20. 20.

    Tenenbaum DJ (2008) Food vs. fuel: diversion of crops could cause more hunger. Environ Health Perspect 116:254–257

    Article  Google Scholar 

  21. 21.

    Gonzalez R, Daystar J, Jett M, Treasure T, Jameel H, Venditti R, Phillips R (2012) Economics of cellulosic ethanol production in a thermochemical pathway for softwood, hardwood, corn stover and switchgrass. Fuel Process Technol 94:113–122

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  22. 22.

    Brinks J, Lhotka J, Barton C, Warner R, Agouridis C (2011) Effects of fertilization and irrigation on American sycamore and block locust planted on reclaimed surface mine in Appalachia. For Ecol Manag 261:640–648

    Article  Google Scholar 

  23. 23.

    Wiens J, Fargione J, Hill J (2011) Biofuels and biodiversity. Ecol Appl 21:1085–1095

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  24. 24.

    Tarr N, Rubino M, Costanza MJ, McKerrow JK, Collazo AJ, Abt RC (2016) Projected gains and losses of wildlife habitat from bioenergy-induced landscape change. GCB Bioenergy. doi:10.1111/gcbb.12383

  25. 25.

    Tuskan GA (1998) Short-rotation woody crop supply systems in the United States: what do we know and what do we need to know? Biomass Bioenergy 14:307–315

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  26. 26.

    Coleman MD, Coyle DR, Blake J, Britton K, Buford M, Campbell RG, Cox J, Cregg B, Daniels D, Jacobson M, Johnson K, McDonald T, McLeod K, Nelson E, Robison D, Rummer R, Sanchez F, Stanturf J, Stokes B, Trettin C, Tuskan J, Wright L, Wullschleger S (2004) Production of short rotation woody crops grown with a range of nutrient and water availability: establishment report and first-year responses. USDA Forest Service, Southern Research Station, Asheville, NC, USA, General Technical Report, SRS- 72, 21 pp

  27. 27.

    Dillen SY, Djomo SN, Al Afas N, Vanbeveren S, Ceulemans R (2013) Biomass yield and energy balance of a short-rotation coppice with multiple clones on degraded land during 16 years. Biomass Bioenergy 56:157–165

    Article  Google Scholar 

  28. 28.

    King JS, Ceulemans R, Albaugh JM, Dillen SY, Domec J-C, Fichot R, Fischer M, Leggett Z, Sucre E, Trnka M, Zenone T (2013) The challenge of lignocellulosic bioenergy in a water-limited world. Bioscience 63:102–117

    Article  Google Scholar 

  29. 29.

    Fischer M, Kelley AM, Ward EJ, Boone JD, Ashley EM, Domec J-C, Williamson JC, King JS (2017) A critical analysis of species selection and high vs low-input silviculture on establishment success and early productivity of model short-rotation wood-energy cropping systems. Biomass Bioenergy 98:214–227

    Article  Google Scholar 

  30. 30.

    Lafleur B, Lalonde O, Labrecque M (2017) First-rotation performance of five short-rotation willow cultivars on different soil types and along a large climate gradient. Bioenerg Res 10:158–166

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  31. 31.

    Kline KL, Coleman MD (2010) Woody energy crops in the southeastern United States: two centuries of practitioner experience. Biomass Bioenergy 34:1655–1666

    Article  Google Scholar 

  32. 32.

    Stout AT, Davis AA, Domec J-C, Yang C, Shi R, King JS (2014) Growth under field conditions affects lignin content and productivity in transgenic Populus trichocarpa with altered lignin biosynthesis. Biomass Bioenergy 68:228–239

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  33. 33.

    Ghezehei SB, Nichols EG, Hazel DW (2016) Early clonal survival and growth of poplars grown on North Carolina Piedmont and mountain marginal lands. Bioenergy Research 2:548–558

    Article  Google Scholar 

  34. 34.

    Coyle D, Coleman M (2005) Forest production response to irrigation and fertilization are not explained by shifts in allocation. For Ecol Manag 208:137–152

    Article  Google Scholar 

  35. 35.

    Davis AA, Trettin CC (2006) Sycamore and sweetgum plantation productivity on former agricultural land in South Carolina. Biomass Bioenergy 30(8–9):769–777

    Article  Google Scholar 

  36. 36.

    Herrick A, Brown C (1967) A new concept in cellulose production-silage sycamore. Agricultural Science Rev 5:8–13

    Google Scholar 

  37. 37.

    Steinbeck K, McApline R, May J (1972) Short rotation of sycamore: a status report. Journal For 70:210–213

    Google Scholar 

  38. 38.

    Ghezehei SB, Shifflett SD, Hazel DW, Nichols EG (2015) SRWC bioenergy productivity and economic feasibility on marginal lands. J Environ Management 160:57–66

    Article  Google Scholar 

  39. 39.

    Dickmann D (2006) Silviculture and biology of short-rotation woody crops in temperate regions: then and now. Biomass Bioenergy 30:696–705

    Article  Google Scholar 

  40. 40.

    Francis J (1984) Biomass accumulation in by single- and multiple-stemmed young sycamore. For Sci 30:372–372

    Google Scholar 

  41. 41.

    Aspinwall M, King J, McKeand S, Bullock B (2011) Genetic effects on stand-level uniformity and above- and belowground dry mass production in juveline loblolly pine. For Ecol Manag 262:609–619

    Article  Google Scholar 

  42. 42.

    Schneider CA, Rasband WS, Eliceiri KW (2012) NIH image to ImageJ: 25 years of image analysis. Nat Meth 9:671–675

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  43. 43.

    Waring RH (1983) Estimating forest growth and efficiency in relation to canopy leaf area. Adv Ecol Res 13:327–354

    Article  Google Scholar 

  44. 44.

    Treasure T, Gonzalez R, Jameel H, Phillips RB, Park S, Kelley S (2014) Integrated conversion, financial, and risk modeling of cellulosic ethanol from woody and non-woody biomass via dilute acid pre-treatment. Biofuels. Bioproducts Biorefining 8:755–769

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  45. 45.

    Zalesny RS Jr, Hull RB, Zalesny JA, McMahon BG, Berguson WE, Stanosz GR (2009) Biomass and genotype × environment interactions of populus energy crops in the Midwestern United States. Bioenergy Research 2:106–122

    Article  Google Scholar 

  46. 46.

    Zamora D, Wyatt G, Apostol K, Tschirner U (2013) Biomass yield, energy values, and chemical composition of hybrid poplar in short rotation woody crops production and native perennial grasses in Minnesota, USA. Biomass Bioenergy 49:222–230

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  47. 47.

    Fischer M, Fichot R, Albaugh JM, Ceulemans R, Domec J-C, Trnka M, King JS (2015) Ecophysiology, above-ground productivity, and stand-level water use efficiency of Populus and Salix grown in short-rotation coppice for bioenergy. Chapter 7 (157-194p). In: Bhardwaj AK, Zenone T, Chen J (eds) Sustainable biofuels: an ecological assessment of the future energy. HEP deGruyter, Berlin 366p

    Google Scholar 

  48. 48.

    Zhao D, Kane M, Borders BE (2011) Growth responses to planting density and management intensity in loblolly pine plantations in the Southern USA Lower Coastal Plain. Annals For Sci 68:625–635

    Article  Google Scholar 

  49. 49.

    Samuelson LJ, Johnsen K, Stokes T (2004) Production, allocation, stemwood growth efficiency of Pinus taeda L. stands in response to 6 years of intensive management. For Ecol Manag 192:59e70

    Article  Google Scholar 

  50. 50.

    Schmer MR, Vogel KP, Mitchell RB, Perrin RK (2008) Net energy of cellulosic ethanol from switchgrass. PNAS 105(2):464–469

    CAS  Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  51. 51.

    Heaton EA, Dohleman FG, Long SP (2008) Meeting US biofuel goals with less land: the potential of Miscanthus. Glob Chang Biol 14:2000–2014

    Article  Google Scholar 

  52. 52.

    Christian DG, Riche AB, Yates NE (2008) Growth, yield and mineral content of Miscanthus × giganteus grown as a biofuel for 14 successive harvests. Industrial Crops Prod 28:320–327

    Article  Google Scholar 

  53. 53.

    Wallington TJ, Anderson JE, Mueller SA, Kolinski Morris E, Winkler SL, Ginder JM, Nielsen OJ (2012) Corn ethanol production, food exports, and indirect land use change. Environ Sci Technol 46:6379–6384

    CAS  Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  54. 54.

    Mumm RH, Goldtsmith PD, Raush KD, Stein HH (2014) Land usage attributed to corn ethanol production in the United States: sensitivity to technological advances in corn grain yield, ethanol conversion, and coproduct utilization. Biotechnology for Biofuels 7:61

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  55. 55.

    Kopp RF, Abrahamson LP, White EH, Volk TA, Nowak CA, Fillhart RC (2001) Willow biomass production during ten successive annual harvests. Biomass Bioenergy 20:1–7

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  56. 56.

    English B, La Torre D, Ugarte DG, Jensen K, Hellwinckel C, Menard J, Wilson B, Roberts R, Walsh M (2006) 25% renewable energy for the United States by 2025: agricultural and economic impacts. University of Tennessee Agricultural Economics

  57. 57.

    Wittwer R, King R, Clayton J, Hinton O (1978) Biomass yield of short rotation American sycamore as influenced by site, fertilizers, spacing, and rotation age. Southern J Applied For 2:15–19

    CAS  Google Scholar 

  58. 58.

    Montgomery AK (2014) Water quality and production potential effects of cellulosic biofuel crops grown on marginal land (Ph.D. Thesis), Environmental engineering, Purdue University, USA, 126p

  59. 59.

    Xue S, Lewandowski I, Wang X, Yi Z (2016) Assessment of the production potentials of Miscanthus on marginal land in China. Renew Sustainable Energy Rev 54:932–943

    Article  Google Scholar 

  60. 60.

    Anderson EK, Voigut TB, Bollero GA, Hager AG (2010) Miscanthus x giganteus response to preemergence and postemergence herbicides. Weed Tech 24:453–460

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  61. 61.

    Jørgensen U (2011) Benefits versus risks of growing biofuel crops: the case of miscanthus. Curr Opin Environ Sustain 3:324–330

    Article  Google Scholar 

  62. 62.

    Tilman D, Hill J, Lehman C (2006) Carbon-negative biofuels from low-input high-diversity grassland biomass. Science 314:1598–1600

    CAS  Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  63. 63.

    Quinn LD, Barney JN, McCubbins JSN, Endres AB (2013) Navigating the “noxious” and “invasive” regulatory landscape: suggestions for improved regulation. Bioscience 63:124–131

    Article  Google Scholar 

  64. 64.

    USDA Farm Service Agency. 2012. Mitigated finding of no significant impact: environmental assessment proposed BCAP giant miscanthus (Miscanthus x giganteus) establishment and production in Georgia, North Carolina, and South Carolina. USDA Farm Service Agency Biomass Crop Assistance Program

  65. 65.

    Bolstad P, Vose JM, McNulty SG (2001) Forest productivity leaf area, and terrain in southern Appalachian deciduous forests. For Sci 47(3):419–427

    Google Scholar 

  66. 66.

    Coyle D, Coleman M, Durant J, Newman L (2006) Survival and growth of 31 Populus clones in South Carolina. Biomass Bioenergy 30(8–9):750–758

    Article  Google Scholar 

  67. 67.

    Kaczmarek DJ, Coyle DR, Coleman MD (2013) Survival and growth of a range of Populus clones in central South Carolina USA through age ten: do early assessments reflect longer-term survival and growth trends? Biomass Bioenergy 49:260–272

    Article  Google Scholar 

  68. 68.

    Heilman PE, Xie F (1993) Influence of nitrogen on growth and productivity of short-rotation Populus trichocarpa x Populus deltoides hybrids. Canadian J For Res 23:1863–1869

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  69. 69.

    Zalesny RS, Cunningham MW, Hall RB, Mirck J, Rockwood DL, Stanturf JA, Volk TA (2011) Woody biomass from short rotation energy crops. In Sustainable production of fuels, chemicals, and fibers from forest biomass; Zhu, J., Zhang, X., Pan, X., Eds.; ACS Symposium Series: Washington, DC, USA, 2011; pp. 27–63

  70. 70.

    Lorentz KA, Minogue PJ (2015) Exotic Eucalyptus plantations in the southeastern US: risk assessment, management and policy approaches. Biol Invasions 17:1581–1593

    Article  Google Scholar 

  71. 71.

    Davidson J (1985) Setting aside the idea that eucalypts are always bad. FAO-UNDP/FAO Project BED/79/017, Working paper no 10, Ecological issues raised against eucalypts are answered

  72. 72.

    Laclau J-P, Almeida JCR, Gonçalves JLM, Saint-André L, Ventura M, Ranger J, Moreira RM, Nouvellon Y (2009) Influence of nitrogen and potassium fertilization on leaf life span and allocation of above-ground growth in Eucalyptus plantations. Tree Physiol 21:111–124

    Google Scholar 

  73. 73.

    Frederick WJ Jr, Lien SJ, Courchene CE, DeMartini NA, Ragauskas AJ, Iisa K (2008) Production of ethanol from carbohydrates from loblolly pine: a technical and economic assessment. Bioresour Technol 99:5051–5057

    CAS  Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  74. 74.

    Panshin AJ, de Zeeuw C (1980) Textbook of wood technology, 4th edn. McGraw-Hill, New York 722 p

    Google Scholar 

  75. 75.

    Benetka V, Bartáková I, Mottl J (2002) Productivity of Populus nigra L. ssp. nigra under short-rotation culture in marginal areas. Biomass Bioenergy 23(5):327–336

    Article  Google Scholar 

  76. 76.

    Nassi o Di Nasso N, Guidi W, Ragaglini G, Tozzini C, Bonari E (2010) Biomass production and energy balance of a twelve-year-old short-rotation coppice poplar stand under different cutting cycles. Global Chan Biol Bio 2:89–97

    Article  Google Scholar 

  77. 77.

    Tuskan G, De La Cruz A (1982) Solar input and energy storage in a five-year-old American sycamore plantation. Forest Ecol Management 4:191–198

    Article  Google Scholar 

  78. 78.

    Hammerschlag R (2006) Ethanol’s energy return on investment: a survey of the literature 1990–present. Environ Sci Technol 40:1744–1750

    CAS  Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  79. 79.

    Albaugh JM, Domec J-C, Maier CA, Sucre EB, Leggett ZH, King JS (2014) Gas exchange and stand-level estimates of water use and gross primary productivity in an experimental pine and switch grass intercrop forestry system on the Lower Coastal Plain of North Carolina, USA. Agricultural Forest Met 192-193:27–40

    Article  Google Scholar 

  80. 80.

    Renewable and Applicable Energy Laboratory (2007) Energy and resources group biofuel analysis meta-model. Univ of California, Berkeley, CA

    Google Scholar 

  81. 81.

    DeBell DS, Clendenen GW, Harrington CA, Zasada JC (1996) Tree growth and stand development in short-rotation Populus plantings: 7-year results for two clones at three spacings. Biomass Bioenergy 11:253–269

    Article  Google Scholar 

  82. 82.

    Burkes E, Will R, Barron-Gafforf G, Teskey R, Shive B (2003) Biomass partitioning and growth efficiency of intensively managed Pinus taeda and Pinus elliottii stands of different planting densities. For Sci 49(2):224–234

    Google Scholar 

  83. 83.

    McDowell NG, Adams HD, Bailey JD, Kolb TE (2007) The role of stand density on growth efficiency, leaf area index, and resin flow in southwestern ponderosa pine forests. Can J For Res 37:343–355

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Acknowledgements

Support of this study was provided by USDA Forest Service Collaborative Agreement 13-CA-11330155-047 and by Joint Venture Agreement 13-JV-11330110-081. The work on this manuscript was further funded by USDA NIFA-AFRI Sustainable Bioenergy grant number 2011-67009-20089 and by the National Science Foundation (NSF-EAR-1344703). We also acknowledge support from the French Research Agency (projects MACACC ANR-13-AGRO-0005 and MARIS ANR-14-CE03-0007).

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Jean-Christophe Domec.

Electronic Supplementary Material

ESM 1

(DOCX 43 kb)

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Domec, JC., Ashley, E., Fischer, M. et al. Productivity, Biomass Partitioning, and Energy Yield of Low-Input Short-Rotation American Sycamore (Platanus occidentalis L.) Grown on Marginal Land: Effects of Planting Density and Simulated Drought. Bioenerg. Res. 10, 903–914 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12155-017-9852-5

Download citation

Keywords

  • American sycamore
  • Bioenergy
  • Degraded land
  • Bioethanol
  • Productivity
  • Short-rotation woody crops