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Silviculture research - New woodland opportunities

The Government's white paper on rural England (1995) envisaged a doubling of the woodland area in England over the next 50 years.

Farm woodlands

Species choice, tree spacing, vegetation management, and type of planting stock are critical issues, especially on fertile ex-arable sites.

Research is exploring systems attractive to farmers:

  • Mixed broadleaved woodland for sporting and amenity
  • Fast growing hybrid poplars are economically attractive. Fibre crops can be produced at close spacing in under 10 years. Mature trees for veneer can be grown at wide spacing in under 25 years.

Hybrid poplar after 3 growing seasons near Monmouth
Hybrid poplar after 3 growing seasons near Monmouth

Biomass crops

Short rotation coppice of poplar and willow produces high yields of wood-fuel on a cycle of about 3 years.

As an alternative to fossil fuels, the use of wood-fuel reduces the emission of pollutants which cause acid rain, and results in a net reduction in atmospheric carbon dioxide.

Salix viminalis 'Bowles Hybrid' at 0.8m spacing
Salix viminalis 'Bowles Hybrid' at 0.8m spacing