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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2016

Effects of mechanical weed control or cover crop on the growth and economic viability of two short-rotation willow cultivars

Albertsson, J.; Verwijst, T.; Rosenqvist, H.; Hansson, D.; Bertholdsson, N. O.; Ahman, I.

Abstract

Willow grown as short rotation coppice (SRC) is sensitive to weed competition, so herbicide treatment combined with mechanical weed control is recommended when establishing a plantation. This study compares that practice with two mechanical, row crop cultivator (RC) and row crop cultivator with torsion weeder (RCT), and two cultural treatments, cover crop (CC) and cut cover crop (CCC), to control weeds. Willow responses to these treatments were compared during the first three years after planting using two cultivars, Gudrun and Tordis with broad and narrow leaves, respectively. At harvest, the RCT treatment had produced 27% more biomass than the RC treatment (13.9 vs 11.0 Mg ha(-1) dry matter) and approximately three times more than the cultural treatments. However, the standard control treatment, herbicides and row crop cultivator (HRC), produced more than all other treatments (17.3 Mg ha(-1) dry matter). The two cultural treatments had higher plant mortality (CC 26.2% and CCC 32.8%) than the other treatments (HRC 2.7%, RC 7.0% and RCT 7.0%) after the first harvest cycle. No interaction between cultivar and treatment was found for willow shoot biomass, weed biomass or plant mortality. Overall, however, Gudrun had lower plant mortality and less weed biomass after the first harvest cycle than Tordis. All treatment and cultivar combinations gave positive financial annual returns when the whole life-span of the plantation was considered. This study suggests that without using herbicides, it is possible to establish a willow SRC plantation that produce enough to be economically viable. (C) 2016 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Keywords

Salix; Short rotation coppice; Weed control; Biomass yield; Plant mortality; Profit

Published in

Biomass and Bioenergy
2016, Volume: 91, pages: 296-305
Publisher: PERGAMON-ELSEVIER SCIENCE LTD