Nova Scotians have an opportunity to re-establish the agro-forestry economy with a focus on export-orientated, high-value bioproduct production and marketing. There is ample capacity for the development of a large-scale commercial bioproducts industry in Maritime Canada; one that can take advantage of the regional infrastructure, free-trade agreements, regional academic and innovation-oriented institutions, commerciallyorientated bioproduct research and development, and availability of renewable biomass feedstock resources.


In June 2010, the Verschuren Centre at Cape Breton University partnered with Enterprise Cape Breton Corporation to research and demonstrate the potential for hybrid-willow to be a value added cash crop to the agriculture and forestry sectors of Cape Breton Island. In 2011, the project was expanded to include an additional plot with partners, Lockheed Martin Corporation and Rendell’s Farm. The project aimed to generate knowledge in the development of biomass crops that could be grown on abandoned, underutilized or remediated lands. Short-rotation woody crops (SRWC) silviculture is characterized by high planting density (approximately 13,000-16,000 cuttings per hectare), periodic harvesting over a period of an approximately 25-year lifespan, with mean yields of 10 oven dry tonnes per hectare annually or greater.
The yield results of the Verschuren Centre’s hybrid-willow demonstration project confirmed that hybrid-willow plants can perform very similar in different planting conditions. Remediated sites can yield as much as agricultural lands within the first establishment years of the crop. However, further study and subsequent harvest rotations are required to determine if this trend will prevail over the willow’s lifecycle.
Overall, growth on the Broughton remediated mine site surpassed growth on former agricultural lands. The SX-64 and SX-67 varieties of hybrid willow outperformed Viminales, which was both observationally recognizable and confirmed in our harvest data. In the experimental trial, Fabius was the top performer at 22.1 odt/ha/year. Further trials of Fabius would be valuable to determine its commercial viability, along with SX-61 (16.8 odt/ha/year), Otisco (15.4odt/ha/year), SV1 (13.5 odt/ha/year), and Sherburne (13.3 odt/ha/year).

Cape Breton University
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