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Jeffrey Wright

Adjunct Assoc Professor


Date: 06/04/13 - 6/30/15
Amount: $156,898.00
Funding Agencies: Biofuels Center of North Carolina

Western North Carolina represents an important opportunity to develop a cellulosic biofuels industry where significant portions of the feedstock portfolio are short rotation woody crops (SRWC), especially genetically improved clones of hybrid poplar and cottonwood. The western third of North Carolina has large acreage of marginal lands, much of which is in pasture or fallow fields. In addition, because of several factors including oversupply and competition from artificial trees, significant acreage of Fraser fir production is being abandoned adding land to the marginal lands base. Marginal and other non-food production lands have become a target nationally and in North Carolina for energy crop establishment including SRWCs as North Carolina, the nation, and the world attempt to develop a biofuels industry while avoiding the food versus fuels controversy perceived to have been created by the recent rapid expansion of the U.S. corn ethanol industry. Our research and extension team currently have hybrid poplar and cottonwood trials established in Scotland and Onslow Counties on waste treatment plants and we are currently establishing additional trials in Duplin and New Hanover Counties plus we are expanding our existing site trials. On these established and new trials we are assessing a variety of Populus clones and promising native tree species for survival, growth, and suitability for ethanol production as well as developing guidelines for establishing and management. We are also documenting disease and pest incidence and treatments where necessary, and we are documenting establishment and management costs. We are using a standardized statistical design on all sites to allow analysis across sites. We are proposing to establish two additional trials in western North Carolina where we will monitor growth, survival, and other parameters for two growing seasons. We have already gotten tentative approval to establish one of the trials at the Upper Mountains Research Station in Ashe County to assess higher elevation marginal lands (3,200 ft. MSL) and have current requests at sites representing lower elevations in western North Carolina that would be representative of lower elevation sites and western Piedmont sites. We will use the same research design as we are using in eastern North Carolina to allow analysis across all sites and development of a geographic growth model of Populus in North Carolina.

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