Coppice Resources - Experience Growth
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How much SRC will I need?

With a yield of 10odt/ha/year, 600ha of SRC will provide enough fuel for a 1MWe power plant running at 30% efficiency and generating electricity for approximately 1,000 homes for one year. Ten hectares at the same yield would provide sufficient fuel to heat a school with a 350kWth boiler per year.

What yields can be expected?

Yields over recent years have increased significantly as the results of the use of improved willow varieties become apparent and also the larger commercial sites are being harvested. Many of the early commercial sites were unsuitable in that the sites were small (i.e. less than 5ha and therefore uneconomical), on poor soils and also planted at lower densities than is now usual and with willow varieties since superseded by higher yielding varieties. With good establishment techniques (particularly efficient weed control and soil preparation) and using a mix of the newer varieties, yields of between 7 and 10odt/ha/year should be achievable in the future at first harvest with an increase in yield at second and third harvest as the crop matures and assuming good management. As with any arable crop, soil quality, temperature, aspect, etc can all have a bearing on yields.

Where should it be grown?

Willow SRC will grow in most conditions but, as with any crop, the better the conditions, the establishment and the management, the better the yield. Willow does not tolerate drought conditions well, particularly during its establishment, so gravel soils are best avoided unless the water table is within 1m of the surface. Reclaimed sand and gravel workings have produced good crops of commercial SRC but with the benefit of sludge cake incorporated during land preparation and digested sludge applied in the year following cutback which not only provided nutrients but also irrigation. If the land is well prepared, willow SRC will grow in most soils. Consideration must be given to the size, shape and slope of the site for economic, efficiency and safety reasons.

Will SRC damage field drains?

It is best to assume yes although current ongoing research is beginning to suggest otherwise. The main structural roots of willow SRC grow horizontally at approximately 30cm below the soil surface with the finer, fibrous roots potentially growing down to a depth of 2m, similar to wheat, sugar beet, OSR, etc. These fibrous roots could enter field drains and eventually cause a blockage. When deciding on whether to grow SRC on drained land, the age of the existing field drains needs to be considered plus the number of years the crop will be in place - potentially up to 30. After 30 years would the drains need to be replaced even if SRC had not been planted? If so, growing SRC will not prove detrimental. If the drains are relatively new, e.g. less than 15 years old, do not grow SRC.

Will it be an eye-sore?

At maturity, prior to harvest, SRC can reach 8m in height so it is extremely important to consider carefully where a plantation is to be sited and the visual impact it will have on both the surrounding landscape and neighbouring properties. Care must also be taken to ensure the crop does not block views from well-liked local vantage points. Well-designed plantations can enhance lowland areas where there are hedgerows, trees and small patches of woodland but it may be inappropriate on sloping, open landscapes where there are few features to link with the SRC. It will only prove detrimental where little or no thought is given as to what impact it might have on the overall quality of the local landscape.

Is SRC easy to remove?

Yes, if it is willow. After final harvest, shoots should be allowed to grow to a height of at least 25cm. These should then be sprayed with a glyphosate-based herbicide. The horizontal, structural roots should be cut close to the stools using large diameter discs and the stools either left to rot down or mulched into the surface of the soil. One year's fallow may be necessary after this before full arable production can be resumed.

What markets are there?

The market for fuel from SRC is now increasing rapidly in parts of the UK primarily due to a number of large coal-fired power stations co-firing i.e. where a proportion of biomass fuel, of which a percentage must be energy crops, is mixed with the coal. Dedicated biomass power stations using wood as fuel are now also up and running and need SRC wood chip as part of their fuel mix. CRL recruits growers for a number of these power stations across the UK so please contact us for further details as there may be opportunities in your area. Growers can also provide their own end-use e.g. converting to biomass heating or installing biomass heating for farm diversification projects. There may be community schemes local to you where biomass offers the most economically viable means of providing heat and/or power e.g. schools, village halls, hotels, swimming pools, industrial estates, etc. CRL can provide advice and practical assistance in developing these small-scale schemes, from the end-use technology to growing, processing and delivering the fuel.

Is an SRC plantation eligible for Entry Level Stewardship (ELS) payment?

ELS features around an SRC plantation are eligible for payment e.g. hedgerow and/or ditch management, grass margins, etc. However, you must ensure that areas of grass margin are not included within the Establishment Grant application. The total area of an SRC plantation can be included in the ELS points target for the farm.

Is SRC eligible for the Single Payment Scheme?


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