Research elements

The trials will be comprehensively assessed throughout the crop rotation for a wide range of factors, which can be broadly divided into four categories:

Environment

A pre-planting baseline will be established to help measure and assess
elements that are likely to affect, or be affected by, short rotation cropping, i.e. climate, soils, hydrology and biodiversity. Subsequent assessments as the crop grows will establish the degree of environmental change.

Silviculture

Elements that will be assessed include: the effects of tree spacing, species' growth and yield, and susceptibility to pests, diseases and climatic damage.

Whole tree samples will be assessed periodically for biomass allocation
(foliage, branches, stems, roots), growth form and calorific value.

Carbon balance

The assessment will bring together data from many other elements, e.g. soil carbon, biomass yield, operational fuel use, etc., into a comprehensive carbon life-cycle analysis for each trial site at the end of the rotation. This will be compared with other land use options, e.g. agriculture or high forest.

Economics

To be an effective and worthwhile crop, wood fuel must show an economic benefit. Indirect and direct costs will be collated throughout the rotation, to form the basis for a cost/benefit analysis at rotation end.

The future

As the trials progress, information on growing woodfuel will build and become increasingly more reliable. By year 5 in Short Rotation Forestry, it will be possible to extrapolate likely rotation-end biomass productivity, and be in a position to indicate preferred species and site types. The results will be available online.

In the longer term, the trial results will be used to inform the decision
whether to reinstate land to agriculture or opt for a second woodfuel rotation.

Conclusion

This unique suite of trials will greatly enhance our understanding of both SRC and SRF in Scotland and provide a solid, factual basis for future development and policy on woodfuel production.