Research Project Information

Research Project Summary Information

Training, Education and Outreach to Supplement the USDA Biomass Crop Assistance Program (30713)

Research Foundation of SUNY


In 2012, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP) awarded funding to support willow biomass crops in nine counties in central and northern New York (Clinton, Essex, Franklin, Herkimer, Jefferson, Lewis, Oneida, Oswego, and St. Lawrence). This was one of only three BCAP awards nationwide last year, and the first in the Northeast. More than $1.2 million will go directly to landowners and producers for establishment and maintenance of up to 1,200 acres of willow. About 60% of BCAP funds will be used to establish willow crops. During the first three years, approximately 50 farmers will be paid up to 75% of establishment costs, up to $741/acre. The remaining 40% of BCAP funds will be provided over an 11-year period in the form of rental payments. The projected average annual rental rate for this region is $43/acre. As part of the BCAP program, the bioenergy producer ReEnergy Holdings committed to purchase all of the willow over the 11 years and use it in its Upstate New York facilities to produce renewable heat and power. This will create an infusion of $3.25 million for Upstate willow producers and will be the largest deployment of willow biomass crops in North America. A successful project will lay the foundation for potential commercial expansion across tens of thousands of the 1.7 million acres of land not committed to food crops in New York State that are suitable and potentially available for energy crops like willow.

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Project Description

BCAP pays for willow planting and establishment, but does not cover associated expenses, so the goal here is to provide an outreach and training program along with skills development for farmers to deploy willow farming techniques and overcome barriers in the commercial expansion of willow biomass crops. A successful project will support the transfer of technical knowledge, first hand experiences from producers who have grown willow on an experimental basis around New York State, and best practices for the production, harvest, and post-harvest handling of this crop to a diverse group of individuals all along the supply chain. Specific objectives include: • Develop and implement a workforce training program that increases farm workers’ familiarity with willow planting and harvesting machinery. • Demonstrate management practices for willow biomass crops, which differ from those used for traditional annual crops or perennial crops like orchards and vineyards. • Develop requirements needed to manage a supply chain for high-volume consumers, including addressing transportation system challenges. • Support New York companies to help them develop the needed infrastructure and knowledge to support this industry. • Explore ways to lay the foundation for the rapid expansion of willow biomass systems that support not only the current commercial partner, ReEnergy Holdings, but also other biofuel and bioproducts firms that could establish a foothold in this promising production area.


Willow contributes to the rural economy by diversifying crops, putting underutilized land back into production, creating an alternative source of farm income, and circulating energy dollars through the local economy. Between five and nine jobs will be created to produce and harvest the willow. In addition, at least one to two of the 77 jobs at ReEnergy Holdings will be attributable to use of willow. Willow is renewable and can be grown on marginal land. It is planted once, and harvested every three years. After each harvest it sprouts again. A single planting can result in up to seven harvests over 22 years. Because of the carbon stored in the roots, it sequesters 2,730 tons CO2e each year. In addition, it will generate 7,034 MWh of electricity each year. The net energy ratio for electricity from willow has been shown to be 1 unit of fossil input to 10–13 units of output. The benefit from offsetting power production using the average fuel mix in upstate New York with power production from the willow is 1,752 tons CO2 per year. When the carbon sequestration benefits are combined with the electricity offsetting benefits, the total benefits over the course of the project equal 21,517 tons of CO2. Other ecological and environmental benefits include reduction in soil erosion and non-point source pollution relative to annual crops, stable nutrient cycling, creation of good foraging and nesting habitat for a diverse array of bird species, and increased biodiversity over agricultural land.

Project Results


Research Foundation of SUNY
P.O. Box 9 Attn: John Loonan
Albany, NY 12207

Principle Investigator

Tim Volk

Universities Involved

SUNY College of Environmental Science an


Project Type:

Information Dissemination

Technologies Types:

Indigenous Resources

NYSERDA Contact Information

Judy Jarnefeld


R&D - Environment & Energy Res

Contract Details

Start Date: 4/24/2013
Project Status: Active
Contract Number: 30713

Last Updated: 11/13/2013