Trends in cultivating extensive energy plants in 2014: Miscanthus (elephant grass) or robinia in an energy forest? (Part 1)
New energy plants season 2014 is directly on our doorstep now; however, some farmers do not know exactly yet what they want to plant. But, for Extensive Energy Planting, you should plan on a long-term basis and make decisions for more then only the upcoming season.
Quite obviously, poplaris still the favorite among woods. It seems to have shaken off its bad reputation (wood of inferior quality, no calorific value, etc.) of the last decade and is now planted more and more in energy wood areas, along with alluvial forests. The challenges are, like with willows, the high humidity of the harvest (50-60 % water content)
and, depending on the species, the liability to diseases. Especially fungus diseases can cause damages that may result in reduced growth or even complete die-off. Here, we can mention the Max clone, “Hybrid 275″, “Muhle Larsen”, and “Androskoggin” as robust varieties, depending on location, of course.
“Matrix”, a more recent variety, and “Kornik” demonstrate their good potential in the first planting. However, the experience with those varieties is still too little for a comprehensive judgment.
Among woods, robinia (also called acacia) has now overtaken willow completely, in my opinion. Robinia can surely score more, with its much drier and denser crops, which is especially interesting for own supply or selling per heat unit. Robinia also suits better for standard cargos than willow or poplar. However, in average locations, it does not usually reach the yield values of poplars or willows.
As to willows, we would also have a considerable potential in cooler locations, in altitudes, and in very fresh or partly wet soils. The true willow fans confirm again and again that the harvests of Swedish willow clones, such as Tora, Tordis, or Inger, can quite compete with poplars on well fed soils. Here is a video that documents willow planting or harvesting.
To complete the information, we should also mention paulownia (empress tree, kiri). Currently, it plays yet a subordinate role due to some uncertainties regarding its frost resistance and growth, and we do not recommend it actively. However, we send small amounts of it for paulownia test areas.
In general, the demand tends to increase, which may be explained by high wood prices (some of over €30.00/m³ of chips, over € 130.00 per absolute dry tonne!) and rather medium grain prices. Should the EU continue to strengthen their environmental efforts towards greening, then we can expect strong impulses from this page again.
Reinhard Sperr, www.energiepflanzen.com im Jänner 2014