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Biomass Potential of Poplar Energy Crops in Minnesota and Wisconsin Assessed

Photo of Industrial poplar farm. Forest ServiceIndustrial poplar farm. Forest ServiceSnapshot : Scientists develop methods to map sites for poplar tree energy crops to enhance productivity and ecosystem services

Principal Investigators(s) :
Zalesny, Ronald S., Jr. 
Research Location : Minnesota, Wisconsin
Research Station : Northern Research Station (NRS)
Year : 2012
Highlight ID : 50


Short-rotation woody crops such as poplar trees and poplar-hybrid varieties are a significant component of the total biofuel and bioenergy feedstock resource in the United States. Production of these dedicated energy crops can result in large-scale land conversion, raising questions about the economic, logistic, and ecologic feasibility of the crops.

To address such concerns, Forest Service scientists used available social (i.e., land ownership and cover) and biophysical (i.e., climate, soil characteristics) spatial data to map eligible lands suitable for establishing and growing poplar biomass for bioenergy crops across Minnesota and Wisconsin.

They confirmed the validity of this mapping technique by sampling and assessing biotic variables within locations identified on the maps. In addition, they estimated potential poplar productivity within identified areas using a process-based growth model to determine spatial distribution of productive lands across the study area.

Although this novel approach was validated for Minnesota and Wisconsin, the methodology is useful across a wide range of geographic conditions, irrespective of intraregional variability in site and climate parameters. Thus, this information is vital for siting poplar energy production systems to increase productivity and associated ecosystem services and is widely applicable to woody biomass production systems worldwide.

Forest Service Partners

External Partners

  • GreenWood Resources, Inc.
  • Iowa State University
  • Iowa State University
  • Michigan State University
  • University of Georgia
  • University of Minnesota
  • Verso Paper