AHB and IBSS are two USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) research projects investigating how to produce biofuels and biochemicals from sustainably grown poplar trees. AHB is focused on the Pacific Northwest (PNW) and IBSS is focused on the Southeastern US. Both projects collaborate with GreenWood Resources and have regional demonstration sites where the poplar is grown as a short-rotation crop for bioenergy.
In the PNW, AHB has identified municipal and industrial wastewater treatment facilities as key early-adopters of hybrid poplar bioenergy crops. By engaging with wastewater treatment facilities, AHB hopes to support the establishment of an initial supply of feedstock for developing biorefineries that may one day use the crop as a feedstock to create renewable biofuels and biochemicals. These stakeholders could achieve duel benefits of treating wastewater and biosolids while producing biomass for existing and developing biomass and wood product markets.
In the Southeast, IBSS has started multiple field trials of hybrid poplar to better understand varietal and planting differences. Hybrid poplar is not well-established in the southeastern region and different varieties are being tested for growth and yield patterns, as well as lignin and cellulose content. These trials will contribute to better recommendations for planting and management guidelines, along with improved varieties specific for bioenergy growth. Hybrid poplar, with its fast growth rate and abundant biomass is a strong candidate for a biomass feedstock in the southeastern region- data from this effort will inform potential growers on best practices.
Together the two projects are exploring ways that poplar can be grown for multiple environmental and economic benefits as well as bioenergy. We plan to collaborate on developing a roadmap that outlines the challenges and opportunities in growing poplar for environmental benefits as well as establishing a renewable fuels industry.