Research Project Information

Research Project Summary Information

Willow Crop Development Center(ST6267-1)

SUNY College of Environmental Science an


NYSERDA has long been a major supporter of short rotation forestry, using both willow and hybrid poplar. We belong to a consortium of over 25 organizations dedicated to commercializing willow plantations. The three main factors limiting the economic viability of willow plantations are crop yield per acre, transport cost, and cost of planting and harvesting equipment. This project addresses crop yield. While previous projects successfully increased yield, largely with wild clones or first generation hybrids, a large potential for further yield increases exists because there is a great deal of genetic diversity that has not yet been tapped. The current collection at SUNY ESF has over 500 varieties of willow.

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Project Description

The goal was to form a Willow Crop Development Center that can collect a diverse population of willow, and design and perform a breeding program to produce superior willow varieties. This five year project included the evaluation and selection of novel varieties of shrub willow that were produced through controlled breeding prior to the initiation of the project. Those novel varieties have been shown to produce high yields of biomass and are relatively resistant to pests and diseases. Currently, some of those elite varieties are being described in plant patent applications to be submitted in the near future.


A Willow Crop Development Center could help to improve willow yields and lead to a stronger market for willow. Supporting the market for biomass such as willow will allow New York's farmers to add willow fiber to their list of viable cash crops. Environmental benefits are associated with reducing the coal consumption at New York's power plants. In addition, although willow plantations are not as diverse as natural forest, the National Audubon Society feels willow can add diversity for birds and wildlife compared to traditional crops. In particular, willow plantations can serve as connections between forested areas.

Project Results

Researchers: 1) collected or obtained up to 300 varieties from NorthCentral and Northeastern United States, as well as international collaborators; 2) observed which ones have merit by screening them for properties such as growth rate, form, and insect/disease resistance; 3) performed site trials on selected varieties to identify interactions between the plants and specific sites; and, 4) developed hybrids of the most promising varieties. Patent applications are underway for some of the varieties of willow developed in this program. Willow commercialization efforts continue through ongoing work with nurseries. In a follow-on project, one nursery has already planted 50,000 willows for harvest starting in December 2005.


SUNY College of Environmental Science an
One Forestry Dr Attn: Cashier - 102 Bray Hall
Syracuse, NY 13210

Principle Investigator

Larry Smart

Universities Involved

SUNY College of Environmental Science an


Project Type:

Indigenous/Renewable Energy Resources

Technologies Types:

NYSERDA Contact Information

Judy Jarnefeld


R&D - Environment & Energy Res

Contract Details

Start Date: 1/11/2010
Project Status: Active
Contract Number: ST6267-1

Last Updated: 11/17/2014