Would a hybrid-poplar plantation be feasible in my area?

M.L. MissouriAnswer: As usual, the main key to profitability is the market. Is there someone who will buy the poplars within a reasonable trucking distance of your location? You may have to sell to local pallet producers.However, Missouri has several excellent resources that can help you in your overall evaluation of a hybrid-poplar plantation. A Missouri Extension publication on the Web that should be helpful is Forestry Assistance for Landowners. The entire publication can be found at http://muextension.missouri.edu/explore/agguides/forestry/g05999.htm.In addition, the Missouri Center for Agroforestry has included the subject as one of its eleven research clusters. You may wish to contact them for consultation. Following is the description from their Web site, located at http://agebb.missouri.edu/umca/research/ongoing.asp.

Fast growing hardwoods biomass research cluster. Focus is to quantify growth of Populus clones, and other species, for biomass production, flood tolerance and levee protection. Biomass opportunities in the floodplain. Collect above-ground biomass weights (mt/ha) from 92 cottonwood clones. The information will be input into a database for future analyses. Data on heat content (GJ/mt) will also be determined. The development of fast growing energy plantations for bottomland sites in Missouri using elite Populus deltoides clones. Physiological and morphological determinants of biomass productivity of poplar clones leading to an assessment of the carbon budget for cottonwood clonal stands.

Minnesota has also done considerable research. In Minnesota, the native stands of aspen were exhausted, and the state encouraged plantings of hybrid poplar to replace them. In this case, the processing infrastructure was already in place. Hybrid Poplar Profits, by Erik Streed, although it is several years old, might be helpful in your market analysis.Another University of Minnesota publication, Discovering Profit in Unlikely Places: Agroforestry Opportunities for Added Income, devotes a chapter to “Woody Crop Plantations.” You may view the entire publication at www.extension.umn.edu/distribution/naturalresources/DD7407.html.Three other Web locations that might be of interest:Short Rotation Woody Crops Operations Working Groupwww.woodycrops.org/ Hybrid Poplar Research Programwww.puyallup.wsu.edu/poplar/ National Agroforestry Center’s publication Opportunities for Growing Short-Rotation Woody Crops in Agroforestry Practices www.unl.edu/nac/afnotes/spec-1/spec-1.pdf (PDF 147 kb) The Poplar-Willow Technology Network is linked to the National Agroforestry Center’s site. It is described as “a national network of experts to provide technical support for individuals, private companies, city, county, state and federal agencies interested in using fast growing tree species for wastewater treatment and other similar types of tree-related environmental projects.” Two sources of tree materials in Missouri were listed on this site.Cutting suppliers/nurseries: Ripley County Farms, Doniphan, Missouri, 573-996-3449 E-mail: rcf@semo.netRiver Valley Tree Service, East Prairie, MO, 573-649-3355, 573-380-1145

ResourcesAlig, Ralph et al. 2000. Economic potential of short-rotation woody crops on agricultural land for pulp fiber production in the United States. Forest Products Journal. May. p. 67-74.Anon. 1990. Short Rotation Intensive Culture. Energy Information Center, Minnesota Dept. of Public Service, St. Paul, MN. 8 p.Godsey, Larry D. 2001. Tax Considerations for the Establishment of Agroforestry Practices. 3-2001. University of Missouri Center for Agroforestry, Columbia, MO. 12 p.Godsey, Larry D. 2002. Funding Incentives for Agroforestry in Missouri. 5-2002. University of Missouri Center for Agroforestry, Columbia, MO. 24 p.Kuhn, Gary A. and W.J. Rietveld. 1998. Opportunities for Growing Short-Rotation Woody Crops in Agroforestry Practices. AF Note #10 Agroforestry Notes. USDA Forest Service Rocky Mountain Research Station and USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service. 4 p.Rhoads, Julie L., and John P. Slusher. 1999. Forestry Assistance for Landowners. G5999. University of Missouri Extension Publication, Columbia MO. 5 p.Streed, Erik. 2002. Hybrid Poplar Profits. University of Minnesota. 6 p.