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Teagasc Launch New Willow Varietal Guide  

All information about willow varieties which have been bred for energy purposes over the past 25 years has been assimilated in the ‘Willow Varietal Identification Guide’ for the first time. The publication by Teagasc and AFBI was presented to the Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Shane McEntee TD at the National Ploughing Championships today, Wednesday, 26 September. This new willow variety guide will be of interest to willow breeders and growers worldwide.

A willow breeding programme focuses on improving growth, optimising relevant traits and lowering production costs to ensure the long-term viability of willow crop systems for producing energy. Willow Genetic improvement programmes in Sweden since 1987 and the UK since 1996 have made significant progress in breeding Short Rotation Coppice (SRC) willow for energy purposes.

Barry Caslin, Teagasc, Bioenergy Specialist said: “The world’s gas and oil reserves are rapidly depleting and becoming increasingly costly resources to exploit and deliver. Coupled with the scarcity of energy supply the world is facing its greatest environmental challenge, namely ‘Global Warming’. The growing of crops such as willow is seen as an important development in contributing to Irelands renewable energy supply, and at the same time helping to mitigate against CO2 emissions associated with the cause of global warming. The varietal guide will form a basis for deciding on willow varieties and suitable mixing of clones.”

John Finnan, Teagasc Bioenergy Researcher said: “Up until now the information regarding the European and Swedish breeding programmes was never brought together. Teagasc in collaboration with AFBI Northern Ireland and Crops 4 Energy UK have brought together the research information on the commercially established willow varieties. The Willow Varietal Guide is a useful focus for future energy crop research programmes.”

All new willow plantations involve newly bred varieties, which are more productive and have greater resistance against pests and diseases. These factors will bring about more stable yield levels.

The new Willow Varietal Identification Guide is available on the Teagasc website www.teagasc.ie/publications