First-rotation performance of five short-rotation willow cultivars on different soil types and along a large climate gradient.
Benoît Lafleur, Olivier Lalonde, Michel Labrecque.
The establishment of short-rotation willow coppice plantations for bioenergy production is proposed as a land management practice to reduce the use of fossil fuels. However, there is little information on the performance of different willow (Salix spp.) cultivars on various types of soils and over climate gradients. This study aimed to determine which set of soil, climatic conditions, and cultivars are conducive to greater growth in eastern Canada. The performance of five willow cultivars was followed over three growing seasons on eight sites representing a large hydroclimatic gradient. Both geographic location and cultivar had a significant effect on annual yields. Annual yields were on average greater in the southern part of the climatic gradient. Across all cultivars, annual yields were positively correlated to average annual temperature (r = 0.23), total annual precipitation (r = 0.77), average growing season temperature (r = 0.21), average growing season precipitation (r = 0.47), and degree days (r = 0.18), as well as soil pH (r = 0.37) and soil extractible P (r = 0.38), and negatively correlated to soil clay content (r = 0.33). Cultivars of the SX group (i.e., Salix miyabeana SX61, SX64, and SX67) showed greater yield than did cultivars of the SV group (i.e., Salix × dasyclados SV1 and Salix viminalis SV5027). These results indicate that at the landscape level, climate variables, especially climate-related variables, largely explain the yield of the selected willow cultivars. Nonetheless, soil pH, extractable P, and clay content likely play an important role in plantation yield.