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The poplar area in Italy amounts to 118 825 hectares, with 70 000 ha situated in the Northern Italian plains (1995, last update). The area of poplar cultivation, after a recent decrease, is now stable. The oldest poplar planted areas (stands more than six years old) occupy about 25 000 hectares.

The standing volume amounts to 4 million cubic metres. In 1997 poplar wood production was 1.9 million cubic metres, or 50% of total domestic wood production.

Policy and legislation

Plantations covering 13 382 ha were established through European Community Regulation 2080/1992, which provided subsidies for afforestation of agricultural land, mostly in the period 1996-1999. In 1999, EC regulation 2080/1992 was substituted by the EC Regulation 1257/1999. The debate between environmentalists, farmers and public institutions concerning the management and degree of intervention in river floodplains has continued, with some comprehensive projects in place in which poplar cultivation, a "re-naturalised" environment and tourism, recreation and educational uses may co-exist. The report mentions the potential of extensive poplar cultivation to reduce environmental impact.

The Ministery of Agriculture and Forests has recently issued a decree dated 27 September 1999, making provisional registration possible for new poplar clones that are likely to meet the necessary requisites for final registration. This is established by the Technical Committee of the National Poplar Commission, after evaluation of preliminary experimental trials. This decree will enable breeders to commercialise clones presently in an advanced phase of official experimentation which so far have given good results as for yield and resistance to diseases.

Technical data

Four new clones were registered in the National Register of Forest Clones and three requests were presented to include new poplar material.

New plantations were established in protected areas with material collected from spontaneous poplars, to restore the dynamic process of genetic evolution. Important progress is reported on the EUFORGEN Programme, which involves several European countries, for the conservation of native stands of Populus nigra .

Intraespecific crossings programmed for the second stage of the breeding programme of P. x euroamericana and some crossings with P. nigra to study the heritability of resistance characteristics were carried out. A breeding programme of Salix is under way at the Poplar Research Institute.

Biotechnology was applied in breeding programmes to obtain transgenic plants with enhanced and durable resistance to insect pest and to confer tolerance or resistance to the non selective herbicides. Several studies have been carried out to characterize the mechanical behaviour of solid multilaminar wood.

General information

The National Poplar Commission, which had 46 members during the period, appointed a small committee for revision of its Statutes and for the definition of new organizational model. A series of changes for the NPC have been proposed by a Committee to improve the Commission's performance. The Technical Committee of the National Poplar Commission has active participation in the final evaluation of new clones before the registration.

Much poplar and willow propagation material was sent 14 countries (IPC members and others) in the last four years.

The report includes a list of all publications produced during the period, on a wide range of topics.

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