|Dr. Scott McG. Wilson MICFor
Consultant Forester and Forest Ecologist
Future Trees Trust
Scoping tree improvement and silvicultural research requirements in relation to potential use of downy birch (Betula pubescens) and aspen (Populus tremula) for upland woodfuel.
The Future Trees Trust (FTT) have grant-aided me to undertake a scoping review of tree improvement and silvicultural research requirements in relation to potential use of downy birch (Betula pubescens) and aspen (Populus tremula) for upland woodfuel production in the British Isles. The scoping review will be conducted between February and June 2014 and will involve literature review, consultation of interested/ expert parties and visits to selected growing sites holding superior populations of downy birch and aspen, potentially suitable as sources of reproductive material for any selective breeding work. Examples of recently established upland woodfuel crops of these species are also of interest. The technical report and outcomes of the project will be summarised for the forestry press and can be used to inform the design of any future British research programmes pursued for these species.
The Future Trees Trust (www.futuretrees.org) have, to date, carried out conventional selective breeding work on several species, including silver birch (Betula pendula) for use on more productive sites below 200-250m asl. However with increased interest in potential alternative industrial woodfuel crops for upland forestry sites (new planting, PAWS restoration, diversification and restocking), downy birch and aspen have been proposed as relevant. Downy birch has already been included in tree improvement work in Ireland, and some research has been undertaken in Scotland on more efficient nursery propagation of aspen for conservation plantings. In Britain, most reproductive material of these species is from source identified stands, therefore unimproved. Selective breeding may pay dividends.
I would be interested to hear from any organisation potentially (a) involved with the sourcing, propagation and deployment of reproductive material of these species for woodfuel production, (b) involved with the management of stands of these species for woodfuel production (or related seed/ basic material supply) and (c) involved with processing of woodfuel of these species (especially on an industrial basis). A questionnaire is attached for your assistance. I am seeking to collate responses by Monday 31st March 2014.
Dr. Scott McG. Wilson MICFor
Consultant Forester and Forest Ecologist, Aberdeen
E-mail: email@example.com; Mobile: 07798-693303
1 : What is your potential involvement with downy birch and aspen for woodfuel? (e.g. forest nursery, woodland owner, woodland manager, woodfuel processor, researcher etc.)
2: What are your organisational contact details/ web-site? (do not give personal data)
Q3: What are your views on the suitability of downy birch and aspen as woodfuel species?
Q4: What do you think are the main opportunities for use of downy birch and aspen as upland woodfuel species (e.g. PAWS restoration, new plantings, restock of conifer sites)? Include any commentary on optimal silvicultural systems (e.g. coppice, mixtures, rotation).
Q5: What do you think are the main barriers to use of downy birch and aspen as upland woodfuel species (e.g. plant supply, stem form, site suitability, woodfuel characteristics)?
Q6: What do you see as the major research priorities for downy birch and aspen as upland woodfuel species (e.g. selective breeding, silvics, wood science, wood processing)?
Q7: Specifically, do you feel that the products of a selective (plus tree and clonal orchard) breeding programme on either or both of these species would offer significant advantages over currently available planting stock or would selection at seed stand level be adequate?
Q8: If any selective breeding work were to be undertaken for these species, should it focus only on stem form for transport and processing or should it incorporate factors relating to (a) yield, wood density and calorific value or (b) ecological tolerance on upland site types?
Q9: Are you aware of the location details of any stands of downy birch and/ or aspen in Scotland and the North of England that display superior stem form and might be suitable for selection at the stand level or might contain one or more potential plus tree stems?
Q10: If an active tree improvement programme for either or both of these species were to be taken forward in the future, would your organisation be interested to take part on a collaborative basis? How would you see your contribution potentially developing?