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ShortFor Project

Exploring the potential of short rotation forestry (SRF) in Ireland to meet renewable energy demands.

Short rotation forestry may have the potential to offset some of the predicted shortfall in supply of timber for biomass and assist in achieving renewable energy targets. A multidisciplinary team from UCD, Trinity College, UL, WIT and Teagasc evaluated its potential in Ireland.

This project called ShortFor funded by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine between University College Dublin (lead organisation),Trinity College Dublin, University of Limerick, Waterford Institute of Technology and Teagasc explored the potential of short rotation forestry (SRF) in Ireland to meet renewable energy markets.

While Ireland’s renewable energy targets are set to increase to 16% by 2020 (European directive 2009/28/EC), there is a predicted shortfall of 1.7 million m3 of forest biomass in Ireland, with demand set to increase to 3.1 million m3. The requirement of renewables for electricity generation is set higher at a target of 30% of Ireland’s electricity needs by 2020. There is perhaps a potential role for short rotation forestry (SRF) and other sources of fibre to supply much of this predicted shortfall.

This project ran from 2014 to 2017. The main objectives were:

  • Biomass is a relatively low value product, which ideally should be produced close to where it is being used. The extent of SRF resource and markets (pulp and energy biomass) were mapped, likely regions identified / predicted where areas of suitable land are likely to become available (land that is not in competition for food production).
  • The potential of SRF to contribute to biomass production and renewable energy targets in Ireland was explored.The quality and calorific value of the biomass produced by key species as well as the sustainability of suitable management/ production systems was examined.
  • The potential for using genetically improved fast–growing broadleaved and coniferous species was investigated.
  • An efficient production, management and harvesting system for use at farm level was developed.
  • The environmental impact of such management systems were examined by Trinity College and University of Limerick, considering energy and fertiliser inputs and losses, changes in soil carbon stocks, GHG balance and energy inputs for SRC compared with conventional forest (or other) production systems. The rates of carbon sequestration that can be expected were also evaluated.The best plant genotypes (species/clones) that are suited to SRF under conditions in Ireland were determined.
  • Field trials were established to investigate the impact of a number of spacings on species growth characteristics (e.g. yield) on several site types.
  • Silvicultural practices (e.g. spacing) that optimise returns were determined in the long–term field trials.

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