Short rotation coppice (SRC) willow is an emerging cropping system in focus for production of biomass for energy. To increase production, the willow is commonly fertilized, but studies have shown differing effects of fertilization on biomass production, ranging from almost no response to considerable positive effects. Focus has also been on replacing mineral fertilizer with organic waste products, such as manure and sludge. However, the effect on biomass production and environmental impact of various dosage and types of fertilizer is not well described. Therefore we studied the environmental impacts of different doses of mineral fertilizer, manure and sewage sludge in a commercially grown SRC willow stand. We examined macro nutrient and heavy metal leaching rates and calculated element balances to evaluate the environmental impact. Growth responses were reported in a former paper (Sevel et al. “Fertilization of SRC Willow, I: Biomass Production Response” Bioenergy Research, 2013). Nitrogen leaching was generally low, between 1 and 7 kg N ha−1 year−1 when doses of up to 120 kg N ha−1 year−1 were applied. Higher doses of 240 and 360 kg N ha−1 as single applications caused leaching of 66 and 99 kg N ha−1 year−1, respectively, indicating N saturation of the system. Previous intensive farming including high doses of fertilizer may be responsible for a high soil N status and the high N leaching rates. However, moderate fertilization input could not compensate P and K exports with the biomass harvest. No elevated leaching of heavy metals was observed for any fertilization treatments and more cadmium than applied with the fertilizer was removed with the biomass from the system.
Bioenergy Research, 2014, Vol 7, Issue 1, p. 338-352