Why Willow ?
Willows are the fastest growing & highest yielding tree or shrub in Britain. Starting from scratch in a bare field, growing willow in a Short Rotation Coppice (SRC) is the quickest, most efficient and productive method of producing wood for energy from the land Farmers are now growing willow in this manner to supply power stations with a natural, renewable and carbon neutral source of energy.
What is a Short Rotation Coppice (SRC) ?
Coppicing is cutting trees or shrubs to ground level to harvest the wood & stimulate regrowth. A ‘Short Rotation’ means that this cutting back occurs more frequently…. To produce wood chips this can be as often as every 3 years, but to produce Logs suitable for domestic use, a 5 year Short Rotation Coppice is considered optimum.
How much wood do I need?
Energy use is measured in Kwh (Killowatt Hours). Your Heating Bill shows how many Kwh (units) you use. 1000 Ltrs of Heating Oil provides approximately 10,000 Kwh. 1000 Ltrs of LPG provides approximately 6,500 Kwh. A Tonne of Air Dried Willow provides approximately 4,000 Kwh
How much land do I need ?
Using a 5 year Short Rotation Coppice you really don’t need acres of land – an area of just 10 x 15m (half an average allotment) can grow 1 tonne of air dry firewood every five years, and just a fifth of an acre can comfortably yield this amount every year whilst an acre can yield 5 tonnes of air dry wood each year.
How densely should I plant?
Willow is grown at different spacings for different purposes. Close spacings (25-50cm), will produce long thin rods which are harvested every year and are ideal for basket making or other craft work. Large scale growing for woodchip production typically uses a wider spacing (60-70cm) and is harvested every 3 years. To produce logs for the home on a 5 year Short Rotation Coppice, wider spacings of 1m between plants and 1.5m between rows are used so that the willows have the space to grow nice & thick. This is equivalent to 1.5 sq m per plant.
What about grazing animals?
All grazing animals like to eat willow so need to be excluded from the coppice, particularly when the willow is young and tasty. In the case of rabbits you can plant short pollards and protect each willow plant with a 2ft tree spiral until the bark is too tough to be eaten.
Coppice or Pollard ?
Coppicing is cutting down to ground level to harvest wood & stimulate regrowth. Pollarding is the same process except that a pollard is harvested above ground level, in order to raise the height of new tasty young shoots above the reach of grazing animals. A 2ft high pollard is sufficient for protection from rabbits otherwise the larger the animal the higher the pollard needs to be. Another reason to pollard may be to raise the harvesting height for the convenience of the harvester.
Where can I learn more ?
If you would like to share our experience of growing and using our own firewood here at Ragmans Lane Farm, we run a Day Course to show you our plantations and systems and discuss how they can be transposed into your situation… See details here…
or email / call us for a chat !