IN RECENT years a number of farmers were persuaded to establish plantations of Miscanthus (elephant grass) for biomass production - with unhappy results.
However, we still need to identify the right species and production methods for short rotation forestry (SRF) in order to contribute to Ireland's renewable energy demands.
New research into SRF could help offset the predicted shortfall in timber supply for biomass and assist in achieving renewable energy targets. A team from UCD, Trinity College, UL, WIT and Teagasc is evaluating the potential for SRF in Ireland.
While our renewable energy targets are set to increase to 16pc by 2020, it is predicted that there will be a shortfall of 1.7 million cubic metres of forest biomass in Ireland.
There is a role for SRF and other sources of fibre to meet the predicted shortfall. This new project runs from 2014 to 2017.
The main objectives of the 'ShortFor' project are as follows:
lThe current extent of SRF resources and markets will be mapped, and regions where suitable land is available will be identified.
l The quality and calorific value of the biomass produced by key species as well as the sustainability of suitable management/production systems will be examined.
lThe potential for using genetically improved, fast-growing broadleaved and coniferous species will be investigated.
lAn efficient production, management and harvesting system will be developed.
lThe environmental impact of such management systems will be examined
l Field trials will investigate the impact of spacings on species growth lSilvicultural practices that optimise returns will be identified in the long-term field trials.