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View Diary: Sunday Train: Unleashing the Political Power of Bio-Coal (128 comments)

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  •  Biomass vs. Pulp (5+ / 0-)

    You mentioned that we are currently growing trees for lumber and pulp, not biomass.  While technically true, growing trees for biomass would in practice be the same as growing trees for pulp.

    It is true that if you grew trees simply to maximize biomass, you might favor shorter, scrubbier trees over today's pulpwood plantations.  However, you are overlooking the mechanics of logging and forestry.

    Although King Henry VIII may have encouraged the use of the shorter, scrubbier trees achieved through coppicing, the economics and technology of those days was drastically different.  In those days, labor was cheap and transportation was expensive.  Trees were cut by hand, and loaded on carts to transport to their final destination.  Smaller trees were easier to carry by people and horses.  Labor was cheap but infrastructure was expensive.  Coppicing also allowed for multiple harvests in a shorter period of time.

    Today, labor is expensive and infrastructure is cheap.  Foresters grow even-aged stands of 8'' to 12'' trees that require less labor to harvest by machine than multi-aged stands of 2" to 4" trees.  Over their lifetime, an acre of land with the larger trees produces more wood per year than an acre with the younger trees.  If your accessible land is limited (as it was in King Henry's time) it makes sense to forego the increased productivity in favor of more regular harvests.  But, if you are operating in a multi-state biomass market, it is not a problem to harvest every 20 years instead of every 5 years.  

    Further, the idea that we could use bushes and branches for biomass is ludicrous.  You couldn't load and stack a logging truck with such trees.  Your only option would be an onsite chipper, but it has been demonstrated that "whole tree harvest" which removes leaves and small twigs from the land harms soil fertility.

    In short, forests and plantations managed for pulpwood are effectively being managed for biomass.  Foresters have been working for generations to maximize this biomass and, in the US, they have concluded that the best strategy is to plant even-aged stands of loblolly pine (pinus taeda) and let them grow to 8-12 inches before harvesting.  Why plant and not coppice?  Because pines and most other conifers are not capable of resprouting from the root.  

    Although I am extremely supportive of biomass-based solutions to fossil fuels, there is no need to reinvent the wheel regarding growing trees.

    One man gathers what another man spills

    by John Chapman on Mon Sep 30, 2013 at 02:23:19 AM PDT

    •  Its not identical, through ... (0+ / 0-)

      ... indeed, the paper on Sycamore coppicing that I cited is in fact focused on coppicing for pulp rather than coppicing for biomass, and there are problems for the use of coppiced wood for pulp, especially with respect to bark removal, that is not present in harvesting of whole trees.

      Your idea that we cannot transport coppiced wood seems a bit strained ... they were capable of transport coppiced wood in the times of Henry VIII.

      As far as soil fertility, you seem to be forgetting that the primary reason for the higher productivity of the coppiced stand in terms of biomass is that the root system is left intact. Forests and plantations for pulpwood are being managed for biomass for whole tree harvest. The only general approach way to increase productivity is grow the trees as a perennial crop, coppice the trees, and leave the root systems intact between harvest.

      The overall disadvantage compared to a full multiculture in terms of total ecosystem services is the relatively smaller range of tree species that coppice well ~ a large number of deciduous hardwoods send out root shoots when coppiced, so they are not candidate species ~ and given that different trees have a distinct optimal harvest rotation, you generally have to have a single tree species in each contour row.

      But when comparing coppicing to monoculture for pulping, even that is to the advantage of the coppice system, since its straightforward to have alternating contour rows in two difference species.

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      by BruceMcF on Mon Sep 30, 2013 at 01:38:12 PM PDT

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