UT, Genera Energy Harvest Hybrid Poplar In Next Step Toward Bioeconomy

A small stand of poplar trees harvested from a University of Tennessee AgResearch Center is set to help scientists progress further down the path toward low-cost, high-quality biomass and a bioeconomy. Located on UT’s East Tennessee AgResearch Center in Blount County, the 10-acre plot of hybrid poplars was planted just over four years ago and […]

A small stand of poplar trees harvested from a University of Tennessee AgResearch Center is set to help scientists progress further down the path toward low-cost, high-quality biomass and a bioeconomy.

Located on UT’s East Tennessee AgResearch Center in Blount County, the 10-acre plot of hybrid poplars was planted just over four years ago and the now 30-ft trees are expected to produce some 60-100 tons of woody biomass — a crop Tennessee and other Southeastern farmers could potentially sell to biorefineries for conversion into advanced fuels or other biobased products.

The harvest is part of a five-year $15 million multi-disciplinary research and development effort funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to reduce barriers to the development of the Southeastern bioeconomy. UT’s CRC, located within the UT Institute for Agriculture, leads the effort, which is called the Southeastern Partnership for Integrated Biomass Solutions, or IBSS. Partners in the broad-based effort include Auburn University, North Carolina State University, the University of Georgia, ArborGen, and Genera Energy Inc.

Tim Rials, director of the CRC explains, “The goal of the IBSS partnership is to demonstrate the production of advanced biofuels from sustainable sources of lignocellulosic biomass, that is, biomass made from designed herbaceous and woody crops.” IBSS has focused on perennial switchgrass and short-rotation woody crops like eucalyptus, pine and hybrid poplar.

“It’s important for the industry and producers to have a portfolio of crops that can supply the cellulosic biomass for the biorefineries,” Rials said. “Very little information is available on the performance of hybrid poplar in the Southeast. This project is designed to identify the effect of both genetic differences and management practices on the growth and yield of this potentially important energy crop. The data should provide the basis for future productivity improvements.”

From EurekAlert!: http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2016-03/uoti-uag030216.php

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