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Emily Lachniet, Appalachian Sustainable Development
A hard-packed gravel road winds along the North Fork of the Holston river through a picturesque valley in southwest Virginia, leading to August Salmon and Julianne Michael’s Salmon’s Willow Bend Farm. August and Julianne have lived and worked at this farm for several years, making innovative use of the gently sloping pasture and forested hills. Now, with the assistance of Appalachian Sustainable Development’s (ASD) multifunctional riparian buffer project, they are able to both protect and farm the rich bottomland along the river and spring-fed creek.
Katelyn Lutes, School of Environment, Resources and Sustainability, University of Waterloo
In an emission intensive era, renewable energy resources, like second-generation lignocellulosic biofuels, offer a solution to reduce our global reliance on fossil fuels and mitigate greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Willow short rotation plantations are particularly effective non-food biofuels that can be grown on marginal lands. This ensures that agricultural land is not seized for biofuel growth, and prevents food crops from feeding fuel tanks rather than people. Overall, these plantations are an effective biofuel option relative to first generation options like corn-based ethanol. Arguably, the most important objective of lignocellulosic biofuels is that they are carbon (C)-neutral energy sources. After all, one of the main problems with burning fossil fuels is the release of GHG into the atmosphere, which accelerates climate change.
Short rotation willow (Salix spp.) biomass production systems are expected to provide seven harvest cycles at 3-year intervals [1(establishment and coppicing year) + 21 years]. However, there is limited information on the nutrient dynamics in these fast-growing systems in Ontario, Canada. It is not clear whether nutrient removal through harvest will be offset by nutrient inputs from atmospheric deposition, geo-chemical weathering, litterfall and fineroot turnover. There is also a lack of information on the need for and types of fertilizer application regimes in mature biomass stands. Once this missing information is understood, system management may be refined to maximize productivity on marginal lands in Ontario, Canada.
Gary Bentrup, National Agroforestry Center and Katie Commender, Virginia Tech
Riparian forest buffers offer numerous environmental benefits. They can help improve water quality by filtering non-point source pollution and stabilizing stream banks, enhance terrestrial and aquatic wildlife habitat, and even sequester carbon. Although many landowners see the environmental benefits of riparian buffers, they are often wary of losing this profitable, arable land that they rely on for crop and/or livestock production. As a result, landowners are left with a difficult decision between conservation and production. Even if financial incentives are provided, such as cost share payments, landowners may remove their riparian forest buffer once their contract term is over and payments cease.