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Susan Foreman

Walsh Fellow

Current Projects

Measuring the physiological and growth responses of potential short-rotation forestry species to variations in planting density

The European Union has set targets for member countries to reach a minimum of 20% of energy supply from renewable-energy sources by 2020. The proportion of Ireland’s gross consumption of energy from renewable sources in 2005 was 3.1%. The target is to produce 16% by 2020. 

One area in which Ireland might meet this target is through short-rotation forestry (SRF) biomass production. However, there is little information available on best practice for growing the main candidate SRF species, especially in relation to optimum planting density to maximise production.

The effects of planting density on the survival, growth and physiological response of Alnus cordata (Loisel.) Duby, Picea sitchensis (Bong.) Carrière and Eucalyptus nitens (Deane & Maiden) Maiden are being examined in a controlled greenhouse experiment in Kinsealy and in a field trial at Johnstown Castle. The observations and measurements will include leaf-level gas exchange to assess photosynthetic activity, shoot growth phenology, height and diameter increments and measurements of biomass.

The experiment at Kinsealy with different tree densities in pots will be used to develop measurement protocols for use in field trials and involve scaling up from leaf- to canopy-level to enable differences in stand productivity to be modelled. The trial at Johnstown Castle will provide best practice on planting densities on selected species for SRF. Better understanding of the effects of competition stress on growth responses will allow planting densities for such species to be optimised.

Additional details

Directions to her office: Ashtown Food Research Centre.