Hybrid Poplar Research

Forest & Land


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Man at opening of white tent which shows small trees inside.
NRRI is a world leader in the development of fast growing poplar.

Program manager: Bill Berguson, bberguso@d.umn.edu, (218) 788-2696

Trees such as poplar and willow, as well as other perennial biomass crops such as switchgrass, are collectively known as “energy crops.” These crops are characterized by high biomass yields, perennial growth and efficient use of nutrients leading to a sustainable, low-demand crop to support emerging bio-based technologies, including renewable fuels and chemicals.

Cultivation of highly-productive tree plantations has been a subject of interest in all regions of the world to produce fiber for wood products manufacturing, as well as biomass for renewable products. Native poplar species such as Eastern Cottonwood and species from other regions of the world have the potential to grow faster than any other tree adapted to northern climates.

NRRI is a world leader in the development of fast growing poplar for cultivation in the northern regions of the world. Several decades of research includes studies of genetics, disease resistance, plantation management and yield. Since 2000, we have developed some of the largest collections of poplar species on the continent and used these collections in a structured breeding program to improve yield and disease resistance of these species. The resulting hybrids, or “clones,” are being tested in field sites in Minnesota as well as many regions of the United States and the world through cooperative arrangements with other universities and national research agencies.

We view energy crops as an integral part of the NRRI’s strategy to develop new bio-based industries by conducting research on the entire biomass supply and production chain ranging from energy crops to development of new processing technologies to make maximum use of every ton of biomass. Our goal is to develop new technologies that lead to expanded opportunities for the state in the new bio-economy of Minnesota.

Current Projects

  • Short-rotation coppice trials in poplar to assess opportunities to reduce harvest rotation age and enhance economics.
  • Biomass assessment of poplar trials and develop yield curves for biomass production for use in cash flow analysis.