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Will poplar bioenergy plantations maintain soil and water quality?

Posted by Stephen Locker | September 17, 2014

January 8, 2014

View the recording at

To identify potential environmental impacts of poplar biofuel feedstock cropping system, Advanced Hardwood Biofuels Northwest is monitoring a number of soil quality and environmental parameters. Studies include soil organic matter, biological activity, physical structure, and chemical balance as well as net carbon loss, soil erosion, greenhouse gas emissions, and nutrient leaching.

In this webinar, researchers from the University of Idaho present approaches and initial findings from three sets of environmental impact measurements: nutrient leaching, greenhouse gas fluxes, and soil biology.

Impacts of growing poplar as a short-rotation bioenergy crop are measured in comparison to adjacent fields growing food or forage crops in Idaho, Washington, and Oregon.  Initial results indicate that environmental impacts of poplar coppice culture are minimal.  However, monitoring of shifts in organic matter and changes in physiochemical responses over the next three years will provide a more complete assessment including critical evaluation of inter-annual variation.

What’s covered? 

  • Impacts of converting agricultural fields to poplar biomass for biofuels on off-site leaching of ammonium, nitrate, and orthophosphate and the potential for degraded water quality.
  • How greenhouse gas fluxes (CH4 and N2O) change when fields are converted to bioenergy crops as compared to nearby agricultural fields representing previous land use.
  • Changes in soil respiration, composition of microbial guilds, and activity of extra-cellular enzymes produced by soil microbes in response to poplar bioenergy crops.

When: Wednesday, January 8, 2014 10:00 – 11:00 am PST

Who should attend: Extension educators, potential landowners/growers, environmental scientists and professionals, ag and natural resource professionals, poplar and bioenergy researchers, and biomass producers.

Presenters: Mark Coleman, Bhanu Bhattarai, and Brian Bell from the University of Idaho

Sponsored by:  Washington State University with funding from Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) Competitive Grant no. 2011-68005-30407 from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA).