Sustainability

15.02.2016
Kim Karotki

What exac­t­ly is short rota­ti­on forestry?

Inter­view wird Micha­el Die­kamp

Short rota­ti­on forestry (SRF) plan­ta­ti­ons invol­ve the cul­ti­va­ti­on of rene­wa­ble resour­ces and are an important ele­ment of Klasmann-Deilmann’s sustai­na­bi­li­ty stra­te­gy. In Gees­te, the com­pa­ny mana­ges a plan­ta­ti­on of this kind on a tri­al site, with the wood crop used to pro­vi­de ener­gy to the ‘Werk Nord’ plant in Sedels­berg. SRF now exists on a lar­ge sca­le in Lit­hua­nia, pro­vi­ding a sustainab­le ener­gy source. But why exac­t­ly are the­se plan­ta­ti­ons cli­ma­te-fri­end­ly, and what is their impact on bio­di­ver­si­ty and soil pro­tec­tion? We ans­wer the­se and other important ques­ti­ons on this topic as part of our series ent­it­led „What Klasmann-Deilmann is doing for sustai­na­bi­li­ty”.

Kim Karotki: What exac­t­ly is short rota­ti­on forestry (SRF)?

Micha­el Die­kamp: An SRF plan­ta­ti­on is at the inter­face bet­ween far­ming and forestry and ori­gi­na­ted in tra­di­tio­nal cop­pi­ce manage­ment. It invol­ves plan­ting trees on agri­cul­tu­ral land to obtain a wood ener­gy crop wit­hin a short rota­ti­on cycle. “This cycle is the length of time bet­ween plan­ting and har­ve­s­ting. The rota­ti­on peri­od in SRF is con­si­der­a­b­ly shorter than in a ‘con­ven­tio­nal’ wood­land,” says expert Micha­el Die­kamp, who is in char­ge of Forestry, SRF and Rene­wa­ble Resour­ces ope­ra­ti­ons at Klasmann-Deilmann. The rota­ti­on time of a forest stand is nor­mal­ly at least 100 years, as oppo­sed to mere three years (on average) on a short rota­ti­on site. In agri­cul­tu­re, less than one year elap­ses bet­ween sowing and har­vest. “Based on cur­rent know­ledge it is assu­med that an SRF plan­ta­ti­on can be mana­ged for 20 years, i.e. appro­xi­mate­ly seven har­vest cycles,” Die­kamp adds.

Kim Karotki: Which tree spe­ci­es are espe­ci­al­ly sui­ta­ble for SRF manage­ment?

Micha­el Die­kamp: In princip­le, any kind of wood is an ener­gy source. To be sui­ta­ble for SRF use, howe­ver, a tree spe­ci­es has to meet cer­tain cri­te­ria. First­ly, it needs to grow rapidly in order to maxi­mi­se the yield wit­hin a short time. Second­ly, it needs to be able to cop­pi­ce, which means it forms new shoots from its stump after the above-ground parts of the plant have been har­ve­sted. A tree’s capa­ci­ty to make new growth in this way is a mea­su­re of its rege­ne­ra­ti­ve capa­ci­ty. “The dual requi­re­ment for fast growth and good cop­pi­cing abi­li­ty is best ful­fil­led by wil­lows and pop­lars. So the­se spe­ci­es are ide­al for short rota­ti­on plan­ta­ti­ons,” comments Die­kamp.

Kim Karotki: Sin­ce when has Klasmann-Deilmann mana­ged SRF plan­ta­ti­ons, and whe­re?

Micha­el Die­kamp: In Ger­ma­ny, Klasmann-Deilmann began crea­ting its first SRF plan­ta­ti­on in 2009 on a 20-hec­ta­re area at Schö­ninghsdorf in the Ems­land regi­on, equi­va­lent in size to almost 30 foot­ball pit­ches. Sin­ce then, the site has seen regu­lar har­ve­s­ting: the wood obtai­ned is pro­ces­sed into wood­chips that are used to fire the hea­ting sys­tem at the Sedels­berg plant. This pro­vi­des hea­ting for the ent­i­re plant, making it self-suf­fi­ci­ent in this respect. In Lit­hua­nia, the first har­vest of an SRF site is cur­r­ent­ly under­way. In the Silute/Taurage regi­on, wil­lows have been plan­ted over a net area of 1,500 hec­ta­res, the­se trees being ide­al­ly sui­ted to the pre­vai­ling cli­ma­te in the Bal­tic sta­tes. The aim is to expand this land use to 3,000 hec­ta­res by 2016.

kup_2_150216

Kim Karotki: What makes an SRF plan­ta­ti­on sustainab­le?

Micha­el Die­kamp: Short rota­ti­on wood is a car­bon-neu­tral fuel, giving it gre­at future poten­ti­al as an important ener­gy source. The 2015 cli­ma­te chan­ge con­fe­rence in Paris show­ed that fos­sil fuels no lon­ger have a future. “Of all orga­nic natu­ral resour­ces, SRF wood is the most effi­ci­ent ener­gy source. This is clear­ly evi­dent from the cli­ma­te foot­print: no com­pa­ra­ble rene­wa­ble resour­ce invol­ves so much ener­gy out­put being obtai­ned for so litt­le input,” says Die­kamp.

Kim Karotki: What impact does an SRF plan­ta­ti­on have on bio­di­ver­si­ty and the envi­ron­ment?

Micha­el Die­kamp: An SRF plan­ta­ti­on is a much more exten­si­ve form of land manage­ment than agri­cul­tu­re. Whe­re­as a pie­ce of farm­land needs to be ploughed, har­ro­wed and fer­ti­li­sed annu­al­ly, and her­bici­des and pesti­ci­des also app­lied every year, a short-rota­ti­on site requi­res the­se ope­ra­ti­ons only every 20 years. Inde­ed, Klasmann-Deilmann makes no use of her­bici­des and pesti­ci­des, opting for mecha­ni­cal wee­d­ing. This leads to signi­fi­cant soil pro­tec­tion bene­fits: the soil struc­tu­re impro­ves and humus builds up. And, com­pa­red with con­ven­tio­nal ara­ble cul­ti­va­ti­on, SRF is also bene­fi­ci­al with regard to bio­di­ver­si­ty and bet­ter for the envi­ron­ment over­all.

Kim Karotki: How much ener­gy does SRF yield?

Micha­el Die­kamp: A 1,000 hec­ta­re short rota­ti­on site with a three-year har­ve­s­ting cycle pro­du­ces 48,000 ton­nes of wood for ener­gy pur­po­ses. Based on the ener­gy con­tent of pop­lars, for examp­le, this har­ve­sted mate­ri­al yields around 104,000 mega­watt hours of ener­gy, enough to cover the annu­al demand of just under 21,000 four-per­son house­holds.

Kim Karotki: Why are the­re so few SRF plan­ta­ti­ons in Ger­ma­ny?

kup_3_150216

Micha­el Die­kamp: The rea­sons for this are chief­ly eco­no­mic. In pre­do­mi­nant­ly far­ming are­as, land pri­ces are high. Ano­t­her fac­tor is cur­rent pri­ces of fos­sil fuels such as oil and gas, which recent­ly hit an all-time low, and the rela­tively small demand for hea­ting ener­gy, becau­se of the very mild win­ters in the past two years. As SRF ent­ails the capi­tal being tied up for a long peri­od, this form of ener­gy pro­duc­tion cur­r­ent­ly does not appe­ar very attrac­tive from a busi­ness point of view, despi­te its being very envi­ron­ment­al­ly and cli­ma­te fri­end­ly. Moreo­ver, in Ger­ma­ny, the­re is also a cer­tain degree of under­ly­ing scep­ti­cism about rene­wa­ble resour­ces as ener­gy sources, which can be traced back to the deba­te about ‘ener­gy’ mai­ze and the coexis­tence of bio­fu­els and food.

Kim Karotki: Why are SRF plan­ta­ti­ons much more widespread in the Bal­tic regi­on?

Micha­el Die­kamp: In the Bal­tic sta­tes, the­re is strong poli­ti­cal will that the regi­on should be inde­pen­dent of for­eign ener­gy sources. Becau­se of public oppo­si­ti­on, nuclear ener­gy is very dif­fi­cult to estab­lish here. On top of this, the­re is a func­tio­n­ing local hea­ting net­work and land pri­ces are com­pa­ra­tively low. “For the­se rea­sons, com­bi­ned with advan­ta­ges in terms of sustai­na­bi­li­ty and cli­ma­te impact, SRF is a high­ly attrac­tive and valued form of ener­gy pro­duc­tion in the Bal­tic regi­on,” Die­kamp exp­lains.