If you look around the web you’ll find that there are a number of companies selling “grow your own woodfuel kits”. If you’re a small holder with limited space for growing trees you should be looking to grow the best varieties. Crops for Energy sell willow varieties that have been specifically bred and selected for high yield and disease resistance. Most of these have been tested in the four corners of the UK and we can advise on the best for you irrespective of where you live or your soil type.
Most willow is grown for woodchip production and therefore is closely spaced with a stocking rate of 15,000 planted per hectare. If you are growing for logs you should consider wider planting distances to give a stocking rate of 6,000/ha. We suggest 0.5m between plants in the row and 3m between rows. This will provide good thick logs in 2-3 years. The lower stocking rate will yield lower in early harvests but will gradually grow into the extra space and provide similar yields to willow grown closer together.
The received wisdom is that willow is a poor firewood. This is because it has a fairly high moisture content when harvested and wood of a low density. This is all true but you have to remember that willow can do a job for you providing you with woodfuel in only a couple of years. With hardwoods like ash you’ll be waiting a decade or more. Besides, not all willow varieties are the same. One UK bred variety called Endeavour is much better suited to log production than others. It has few, thick rods, a high dry matter (50% at harvest, most willows are 45% DM), a high gross calorific value (18.6 MJ/Kg) and a superior bulk density than other willows. The mean yield from trials in Bristol, Aberystwyth, Loughgall (Co. Armagh), Harrogate (Yorks) and Retford (Notts) is 10 oven dry tonnes per hectare per year from the first two year harvest and 13.7 odt/ha/yr from the second harvest.
Of course for a wood burner you need logs at 20% moisture so in actual fact the yield can be adjusted upwards to 12.75 tonnes/ha/year (5.2 tonnes/acre/yr) from a first harvest and 17.1 tonnes/ha/year (6.9 tonnes/acre/yr) from the second.
You’ll get masses more woodfuel from growing Endeavour compared to one of the old unimproved varieties such as Bowles Hybrid or Q83. We sell willows as 20cm cuttings and because they are produced in large quantities they are a great deal cheaper than kits sold by our competitors. So by sourcing your willows through us you’ll get better yields and cheaper up front costs.
If you prepare your land well (ploughing, spraying etc) you can also save yourself a packet compared to planting through plastic. The latter is expensive, and can ride up above the planted willow meaning you need longer cuttings. This is fine for really small plots or f want to go organic but is incredibly expensive. You can find out how to grow willow well and maximise your yields from one of our previous blogs
If you would like to plant Endeavour or enquire about our other high yielding willow varieties please call us for a quote on 0844 249 2901 or email Kevin@crops4energy.co.uk