From a news release issued by Xcel Energy:

Test stations to be used to educate local farmers, public on woody biomass development and costs

ASHLAND, WIS. – Plantings began today on two innovative woody biomass energy plantations in the Lake Superior basin that will be testing hybrid species of poplar and black willow trees. The plantations at the Ag Experiment Station in Ashland and Morning View Farm in Port Wing were made possible by grants from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and Xcel Energy. The Lake Superior Woody Biomass Initiative (LSWBI) will promote the scientific research and development of the two biomass energy plantations.

The LSWBI includes a number of research-based projects that are necessary to support sustainable biomass production and utilization in northwest Wisconsin. To be sustained, production and harvest of woody biomass must protect or enhance soil quality, surface and groundwater quality, and biodiversity. The LSWBI will:

* Evaluate advanced selections of woody biomass crops by establishing hybrid poplar and black willow germplasm clone trials. The trial will be conducted in cooperation with Bill Berguson, Natural Resources Research Institute, Duluth, Minn., who has one of the largest hybrid breeding programs in the United States.

* Optimize woody biomass production systems by establishing poplar and black willow production trials to evaluate and demonstrate management and harvest options. The trials will be used to demonstrate basic site preparation, planting and weed control management options to farmers and the public.