New demonstration planting to research commercial feasibility of dedicated woody crops

IBSS woody biomass trial in Columbus, Miss.
In March researchers began planting 65 acres of fast-growing trees near Columbus, Miss., to study the commercial feasibility of woody crops as feedstocks for biorefineries. The project is part of a multi-state effort focused on the development of biobased industry in the southeastern U.S. Photo courtesy of Auburn University. Download image

COLUMBUS, Miss. — Researchers continue to seek affordable, sustainable substitutes for petroleum-based fuels and products, and while grain- and grass-based drop-in fuels have received a lot of press, scientists have been quietly focused on another potential raw material: wood.

Based on two years of successful experiments in the Southeast and Pacific Northwest with fast-growing cottonwood and hybrid poplars, the Southeastern Partnership for Integrated Biomass Supply Systems (IBSS), Advanced Hardwood Biofuels (AHB) and GreenWood Resources have partnered to develop Phase I of a commercial demonstration located in east central Mississippi near Columbus. The 65-acre planting is in close proximity to a local biorefinery. Four cottonwood varieties and five hybrid poplar varieties are being planted this spring and fall, with harvest planned for the winter of 2017.

Tim Rials, director of the IBSS Partnership and the University of Tennessee Center for Renewable Carbon, is helping to oversee the project and contends that the U.S. should invest in the Southeast for the production of biofuels. “In 2010 the USDA Biofuels Strategic Production Report estimated that the Southeast will be the leading region for biofuels production,” he said. “The reason is simple. We have the most robust growing season in the U.S. Our climate offers an incredible opportunity for the development of biobased industry built around dedicated woody crops as a feedstock.”

The goal of the IBSS Partnership, which is supported by a USDA NIFA Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) competitive grant, is to demonstrate the production of advanced biofuels from sustainable sources of lignocellulosic biomass. The partnership includes scientists from throughout the Southeast, focusing its efforts on perennial switchgrass as well as short-rotation woody crops. The partnership includes North Carolina State University; Auburn University; ArborGen, Inc.; and the University of Georgia.

GreenWood Resources has also been working under an AFRI grant, and expanding their efforts from the Northwest to the Southeast has presented a unique opportunity for the globally invested tree farming company.
“GreenWood Resources appreciates the opportunity to expand our Northwest AFRI project, Advanced Hardwood Biofuels (AHB) to the southeast in collaboration with our IBSS partners as a wise use of USDA’s investment in to the AFRI CAP projects to advance our nation’s future renewable energy and bio-products business sectors,” said Jeff Nuss, GreenWood’s president and chief executive officer.

“GreenWood has come to the southeast viewing it as a terrific opportunity for building our renewable energy business. This cooperative project between IBSS and AHB will accelerate the commercial production of drop-in fuels from cottonwood and hybrid poplar as renewable energy feedstocks,” said Rick Stonex, GreenWood’s Mississippi project manager.

Data from the Columbus-area planting will be collected to document: (1) site preparation and planting costs, (2) crop care costs, (3) biomass yields during the initial three-year planted rotation, (4) harvesting costs, and (5) the environmental impacts of this biomass production system. The demonstration planting will also provide extension and outreach opportunities for landowners interested in cottonwood and hybrid poplar production and will showcase harvesting technology at a commercial scale.

All of the tree varieties being planted for the demonstration have already been tested in the Southeast, including at a 10-acre plot at UT’s East Tennessee AgResearch and Education Center near Knoxville.  All of the varieties have performed well, and Rials expects the demonstration will prove the value of short-rotation woody crops as feedstock for biorefineries.

The IBSS Partnership is supported by Agriculture and Food Research Initiative Competitive Grant no. 2011-68005-30410 from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture. The UT Center for Renewable Carbon is a program of the UT Institute of Agriculture. The UT Institute of Agriculture provides instruction, research and public service through the UT College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, the UT College of Veterinary Medicine, UT AgResearch, including its system of 10 AgResearch and Education centers, and UT Extension offices in every county in the state.



Jessica McCord, UTIA Center for Renewal Carbon, 865-974-7370,

Patricia McDaniels, UTIA Marketing and Communications, 615-835-4570,


About the UTIA Center for Renewable Carbon
The Center for Renewable Carbon consolidates the UT Institute of Agriculture’s research, teaching and outreach programs related to bioenergy production and biomaterials processing.
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About the IBSS Partnership
The Southeast Partnership for Integrated Biomass Supply Systems (IBSS) demonstrates real-world solutions towards economically and environmentally sustainable production and conversion of biomass-to-biofuel in the southeast U.S. This Partnership is helping to meet the USDA goal of producing almost 50 percent of the next generation of biofuels in the southeast U.S., while supporting robust and innovative research, education and extension activities.
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About GreenWood Resources

GreenWood Resources, Inc. (“GWR”) is a global investment and asset management company focused on the development and operations of high-yield, short rotation tree farms in North America, South America, Europe and Asia.  GWR's core competencies – capital/ investment management, superior plant material, tree improvement methodologies, tree farm operations, and sales and marketing – uniquely address the broad skills required to produce superior, risk-adjusted returns for investments into intensively managed tree farms.  GWR tree farm operations are certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). 
For more information, please visit