Change in Yield Between First and Second Rotations in Willow (Salix spp.) Biomass Crops is Strongly Related to the Level of First Rotation Yield

Nathan J. Sleight, Timothy A. Volk, Gregg A Johnson, Mark H. Eisenbies, Shun Shi, Eric S. Fabio, Penelope S. Pooler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


Yield is a critical factor in the development and understanding of willow biomass crops which experience multiple harvests after planting. Small changes in yield can have substantial impacts on economic and environmental assessments. Studies have reported increases between first rotation yield (FRY) and second rotation yield (SRY); however, there is minimal agreement on the variation of this increase. This study analyzes FRYs and SRYs of commercial willow cultivars in 360 research plots across five sites in the Northeast and North Central USA. Mean FRYs were 9.6 Mg ha−1 year−1 and mean SRYs were 7.9 % greater at 10.3 Mg ha−1 year−1. The relative change in yield between rotations was high for plots with low FRYs, but decreased as FRY increased and was negative when FRYs were highest. Therefore, applying a single yield increase factor to all willow crops may result in errors. Linear and logistic regression modeling were used to predict the magnitude of yield change across the range of FRYs and the probability for increasing/constant yields. Results showed that FRY alone predicts yield change with an R2 of 0.635, and adding cultivar and site/management factors increases R2 to 0.697. One study limitation is that many plots with the highest FRYs came from a drought influenced site. A meta-analysis of literature data revealed that this pattern of decreasing relative gains as FRYs increase is widespread though not previously addressed. Acknowledging this pattern should provide more accurate yield estimates over multiple rotations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)270-287
Number of pages18
JournalBioenergy Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 1 2016

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Essential funding to maintain and monitor these plots over the past several years was provided by the North Central Regional Sun Grant Center at South Dakota State University through a grant provided by the US Department of Energy Bioenergy Technologies Office under award number DE-FC36-05GO85041 and the Southern Research and Outreach Station at the University of Minnesota. Support for the initial establishment of these trials was provided by USDA AFRI and the NewYork State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA). T.A. Volk is a co-inventor on the patents for the following willow cultivars that are included in this trial: Tully Champion (US PP 17,946), Fish Creek (US PP 17,710), Millbrook (US PP 17,646), Oneida (US PP 17,682), Otisco (US PP 17,997), Canastota (US PP 17,724), and Owasco (US PP 17,845).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015, Springer Science+Business Media New York.


  • Biomass yield
  • Commercial cultivars
  • Regression modeling
  • Short-rotation woody crop
  • Shrub willow


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