2.2 Willow (Salix spp.) has already been used in commercial or near commercial operations in the UK. Investment in developing new varieties with increased yield stability and improved crop management has made willow increasingly competitive as an energy source (paragraph 4.2). Willow chips are a reliable source of fuel of a consistent quality, suitable for firing in CHP and district heating plants. Willow has been grown extensively in Scandinavia for fuel, and in Sweden some 15,000 hectares of land are dedicated to its production for renewable energy. Consequently, much more information about cultivation, harvesting and yields is available for willow than for the other potential energy crops. The grass miscanthus (Miscanthus spp.) is attracting an increasing amount of interest but it is still largely at trial stage in the UK.

2.3 Among other potential candidate species, poplar (Populus spp.) is closest to providing an alternative source of fuel. Poplar is being trialled in short rotation coppice (SRC) plantations, as well as being tried in silvoarable agro-forestry where it is intercropped with arable species. Straw has also been used as fuel and has the advantage of being a by-product with which farmers are familiar.

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