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- January 1, 2009 -
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impact statement impact
- Improved willow bioenergy crop varieties that we have developed have been patented and licensed to a commercial nursery, Double A Willow in Fredonia, N.Y. This company has scaled up production capacity to more than 30 million cuttings per year (enough to plant 5,000 acres each year). While there are a great number of bioenergy projects that have been proposed, securing financing and approval for these will require reliable commercial-scale demonstration of sustained and reliable yields across a wide range of site conditions. Simultaneously, growers need to be assured that the crop can be grown, harvested, and transported to market profitably. This project will provide applied, farm-level research and outreach to ensure that New York agriculture can rise to meet those demands and take advantage of the business opportunities emerging in the production of renewable energy and biofuels.
impact statement issue
- Multiple national and regional imperatives are driving a switch from fossil-based energy sources to renewable energy, including efforts to reduce carbon emissions and slow climate change, a push to improve homeland security by reducing reliance on foreign sources of petroleum, a desire to stimulate the rural agricultural and forest-based economies, and the need to transition from limited fossil fuel resources to sustainable and environmentally benign sources of energy. Two important renewable energy solutions are the conversion of biomass to liquid transportation fuels and the use of biomass for the production of combined heat and power. To ensure a long-term and sustainable supply of biomass, there is a need to develop and deploy genetically improved perennial energy crops on marginal agricultural land. These plants also tend to accumulate carbon below ground over time and can provide valuable wildlife habitat while diversifying and sustaining the agricultural landscape. In the case of shrub willow crops, life cycle assessment indicates that net energy ratios for the production of power by combustion or gasification are in the range of 1:10 to 1:15.
impact statement response
- Previous trials in New York have demonstrated that yields of four to five oven-dry tons per acre per year can be expected for existing willow varieties. Since 1998, we have been assembling a diverse collection of willow species, conducting hybridization, and selecting novel, improved varieties. In initial field trials, the best new varieties produced as high as 40 percent greater yield than a standard variety with improved disease and pest resistance. With funding from both state and federal agencies, selected varieties have been planted in larger yield trials across New York and North America to demonstrate yield potential on varied soil and climate conditions. The next phase is to demonstrate commercial-scale yields and improve large-scale agronomic practices to ensure profitability. With funding from the New York Farm Viability Institute, a demonstration trial has been planted in Verona, N.Y., in cooperation with Vernon-Verona-Sherrill High School and Cornell Cooperative Extension. We are also producing new extension fact sheets and educational materials that are published on a College of Agriculture and Life Sciences website with the name Willowpedia (http://willow.cals.cornell.edu/).
impact statement summary
- New York has great potential to expand the cultivation of sustainable, perennial crops for the production of woody biomass -- for heat and bioenergy and as a feedstock for biofuels -- on under-used agricultural land. Shrub willow is a proven commercial crop that can be grown on marginal land with minimal inputs. A willow field is established by planting stem cuttings, and at the end of the first season new stem growth is cut back, which stimulates vigorous regrowth of multiple stems the following spring. The stems typically grow 12 to 14 feet in that first season and are ready for harvest at 25 feet tall after two to three years. Willow is harvested during the dormant season, and the plants resprout vigorously the following spring. These harvest cycles can be repeated over 20 or more years without having to replant, and yields are sustained with only minimal amounts of fertilizer added after each harvest. Through breeding and selection, we have developed new willow varieties that produce improved yield and display greater pest and disease resistance. These have been licensed to a commercial willow nursery in New York, stimulating expanded deployment of this sustainable bioenergy crop.
- Double A Willow; NY Partner (Double A Willow)
- MICHIGAN STATE UNIVERSITY Partner (Michigan State University)
- SUNY COLLEGE OF ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCE AND FORESTRY Partner (SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry)
- SUNY-Potsdam; NY Partner (SUNY-Potsdam)
- Smart, Lawrence B. Researcher
- USDA-National Resources Conservation Service Big Flats Plant Materials Center Partner (USDA-National Resources Conservation Service Big Flats Plant Materials Center)
- Vernon-Verona-Sherrill High School; NY Partner (Vernon-Verona-Sherrill High School)
- Both Basic Research and Applied Research
- Smart, Lawrence B. Cornell Faculty Member
USDA area other
- Bioenergy and Biofuels