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United Kingdom

Area and inventory data

Areas of new planting of poplar continue to be small, but there is increased interest in Short Rotation Coppice, principally of willow, that resulted in an upsurge in planting in 1999. The Census of Woodlands for England has not been completed yet, but it should be completed shortly. There was a total standing volume of 773 800 m³ of standing poplar recorded in 1982, on a total of 12 757 ha. In the absence of clear figures on the area of poplar felled and not replanted, it is a reasonable presumption that about 10 000 ha of standing poplar remain in England. Amounts in Scotland and Wales in 1982 were 329 ha and 5 583 ha respectively.

Policy and legislation

The Woodland Grant Scheme is the main instrument for providing grants for planting poplar and willow. Under a special dispensation for poplar planting, the full planting grant for poplars is payable so long as at least 1 100 trees per hectare are planted.

The most significant influence on the planting of willows and poplars in the imediate future will be the introduction by the Ministery of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food of their energy crop scheme under the Rural Development Regulation. The Forest Reproductive Regulations apply to poplar but not to willow; the regulations are administered by the Forestry Commission, and include stands for poplar cuttings and sets, and a national List of Approved Clones.

Technical data

Studies on molecular genetics in poplar and willows have been developed at two universities. In the near future, it is expected that marker-aided selection will be able to speed up the breeding process. The programme of introductions was disrupted by heavy infestation of Melampsora larici populina which became serious in 1996, affecting the most productive crosses of P. trichocarpa x P. deltoides. A new willow breeding programme has begun.

There is renewed interest in genetic conservation. The Populus nigra network was one of the first EUFORGEN groups to be set up, and the UK continues to be represented in the network and in the EC program EUROPOP. Studies on the effects of elevated CO2 concentrations on poplar growth, have been carried out in collaboration with international partners through the EU programme POPFACE.

General information

In the UK there is still no National Poplar Commission but the UK Poplar Forum has been placed on a more solid footing and has a small annual grant from the Forestry Commission, the Government Department responsible for the forestry in the UK, in return for advice on poplar matters. This recognises the Forum´s role in representing poplar and willow growers. The Forum is active in promoting poplar and willow in the UK, and holds annual field events and publishes an annual newsletter.

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