Research Project Information

Research Project Summary Information

Establishing Commercial Willow Biomass Corp. Nurseries(ST8499-1)



NYSERDA has an ongoing effort to commercialize willow, a potential energy crop for farmers. The ongoing effort includes both System Benefits Charge (SBC) and statutory funds. Willow can be used to make biopower, either alone in wood boilers of co-fired with coal. This project complements that work by moving production of willow whips (small willows suitable for planting) from the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry (SUNY ESF) to commercial nurseries. The technology is in transition, as the university has received whip orders too large to handle, yet the market for nurseries, though real, is still small and risky. Now is the time to prepare for predicted larger market in several years, since willows need time to grow.

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Project Description

The goal of this project was to transfer the technology of superior willow varieties to commercial nurseries located in New York.


The work described the markets for willow, estimated the demand for whips, described markets for whip harvesting equipment, discussed harvester production efficiency, and identified capital needs at a specific nursery. For one large-scale willow energy project, one would need 160 acres of willow nursery beds, but we currently only have 10. During Stage Two, this project will help establish reliable, high-volume supplies of willow whips in beds of 10-15 acres each.

Project Results

A willing and able commercial nursery was identified, and is interested in establishing an enterprise for the production, marketing, and sale of willow cuttings. Based on surveys of commercial nurseries in New York and advice from Cornell University fruit and berry breeders, potential cooperators were identified. Double A Vineyards, a well-established wine grape nursery in Fredonia, was the first to be contacted. In a series of meetings, SUNY- ESF personnel described the production system, potential markets, and breeding of new varieties. By mutual agreement, a cooperative relationship was forged, and Dennis and Susan Rak, owners of Double A Vineyards have enthusiastically committed resources to ensure the successful establishment of a shrub willow nursery as a component of their business enterprise. During 2005, Double A Vineyards planted more than 50,000 cuttings of SUNY-ESF varieties that will eventually yield as many as 1,500,000 cuttings for sale annually. Double A vineyards has developed a flyer and a website,, to begin marketing this plant material. SUNY-ESF, working with the Research Foundation Technology Transfer Office, has filed seven plant patent applications and has initiated negotiations to license those to Double A Vineyards. Expanded scale-up nurseries of these varieties were established at SUNY-ESF’s Tully Genetics Field Station to provide sufficient material to transfer to Double A Vineyards in future years.


200 Bray Hall, 1 Forestry Dr The Office of Research Program
Syracuse, NY 13210

Principle Investigator

Tim Volk

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: ST8499-1

Last Updated: 11/17/2014