The economics of planting and producing biomass from willow (Salix spp.) living snow fences

David Smith, Diomides S. Zamora, William Lazarus

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Blowing snow adversely affects winter transportation by reducing driver’s visibility, creating icy roads, and depositing snow drifts in the travel lane. Blowing snow is prevalent in snowy and windy climates where landscapes lack sufficient vegetation to trap snow. Maintaining safe driving conditions on roads with blowing snow can be a costly challenge for transportation agencies. Living snow fences (LSFs) are semi-permanent living structures that can reduce blowing and drifting snow and offer environmental benefits, such as carbon sequestration and wildlife habitat. Recently, shrub willow cultivars (Salix spp.) have been evaluated as a potential LSF due to the relative ease of planting, reduction in plant material costs, fast growth, and ability to establish well given proper site preparation, planting techniques and maintenance. To evaluate the potential of willow for LSFs this study analyzes the costs of planting and establishing a willow LSF and the viability of harvesting biomass. This study finds that the costs of planting and establishing a willow LSF is $8.11 m−1 for a two row snow fence. Biomass harvest is prohibitively expensive for the typical willow LSF due to the small scale of production. However, corridor length willow LSFs, in which planting and establishment costs are defrayed due to payments for the transportation benefits, can produce biomass at a cost of $30 dry-Mg−1.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)737-746
Number of pages10
JournalAgroforestry Systems
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 1 2016

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was supported by a grant from the Minnesota Local Road Research Board (LRRB) and Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT Contract 99008). The authors are thankful to the University of Minnesota Southern Research and Outreach Center for the use of the farm equipment for use in the study. Special thanks to Drs. Dean Current and Gregg Johnson for providing valuable inputs to the project, and to Gary Wyatt (University of Minnesota Extension), Eric Ogdahl (Graduate Research Assistant) and to Dan Gullickson (MnDOT) for providing information to conduct the economic analysis of the study.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016, Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht.


  • Enterprise budgets
  • Snow
  • Transportation
  • Windbreak


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