Hardwood Energy Crops

Finding the Best Poplar and Alder for Feedstocks

Hybrid poplar is a leading feedstock candidate for the production of liquid biofuels and bio-based chemicals in the Pacific Northwest. Poplars are the fastest growing trees in temperate regions and produce high yields. The trees grow back (coppice) after harvest allowing for multiple rotations, eliminating the need to replant for up to 20 years. This practice reduces greenhouse gas emissions compared to feedstocks grown as annual crops.

Over the last several decades, researchers and the pulp and paper industry have developed a large library of hybrid poplar varieties. Hybrid varieties have been bred using the traditional time-tested methods of controlled pollination. AHB Researchers are testing these varieties to see which ones are the most efficient producers as an energy feedstock. In addition, we are now breeding a second generation of poplar varieties specifically for bioenergy applications.

There may be locations where poplar is not the best feedstock production candidate, so we are testing hybrid alder varieties that can be grown in areas more suited for alder. Poplar and alder growing stock are adaptable to a wide range of site conditions, and we expect to be able to grow one or both of them successfully at many sites throughout the Pacific Northwest.

An alder tree growing interspersed with the poplar at the Pilchuck demonstration site.

Alder (seen on the left) is an alternative feedstock to poplar.