Development of an applied black willow tree improvement program for biomass production in the southThis article is part of a larger document. View the larger document here.
The development of rapidly growing biomass woody crops is imperative as the United States strives to meet renewable energy goals. The Department of Energy has indicated that biomass is a prime source for renewable energy for the southern United States. Black Willow (Salix nigra Marsh.) is a potential bioenergy/biofuels crop for dedicated short-rotation plantations. However, there has been very little genetic development of this species. In 2009, 100 individual one to two year-old whips were selected from five geographic areas and grown in a stool bed near Stoneville, MS. One year-old whips were harvested in February 2010, cut into 14-inch dormant unrooted cuttings, and graded by diameter. The initial study in determining genetic worth is a screening trial where all clones are tested, but with a limited number of ramets per clone. The 2010 black willow screening trial consists of two locations, four blocks, and 100 clones arranged in two tree-row plots at a spacing of 10 x 3 feet. While age-three selections will be used to determine genetic potential, age-one performance will provide insight into clonal performance among the five geographic areas. Selections from the screening trial will be included in highly replicated clone tests. Selections from the screening trial will provide the first genetically improved black willow clones for use in short-rotation plantations.