The Willow Project at SUNY-ESF

Driven by the challenges of rural development, energy independence and environmental sustainability, research on willow biomass crops for renewable energy and environmental applications has been ongoing at ESF since 1986.


About Shrub Willow

Shrub willow is a short-rotation woody crop that produces large amounts of harvestable biomass at a rate of about four to five dry tons per acre each year.

  • Willow can be grown on idle or marginal lands, stimulating rural development while also producing numerous environmental benefits.
  • Willow is a climate-neutral renewable energy source that does not increase greenhouse gas emissions in the atmosphere.
  • Willow can reduce soil erosion, mitigate water pollution, increase wildlife habitat and biodiversity, limit the use of fertilizers and herbicides, and be used for bioremediation applications such as vegetative landfill covers and treatment of organic wastes.

Shrub willow also has many other environmentally-friendly applications such as living snow fences and stream bank stabilization. One willow biomass planting can be harvested up to seven times on a three- or four-year rotation cycle with limited maintenance between harvests once the crop is established. ESF has teamed up with more than 20 universities, commercial partners and non-profit organizations throughout the U.S. and Canada to conduct research and facilitate the commercialization of willow biomass crops. Commercial willow production is now happening on over 1100 acres of land in New York State and is being supported by the USDA Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP). Please click on the links below and at the top of the screen for more information!


  • Shrub willow biomass crops

  • Planting a willow crop

  • One-year-old willow plants in spring

  • Willow stems

  • Three-year-old willow

  • Student research

  • Three-year-old willow at harvest

  • Harvesting a willow crop

  • Unloading willow chips

  • Willow demonstration on National Bioenergy Day

  • Willow chips mixed with forest chips at ReEnergy biopower facility

  • Willow nesting habitat

  • Willow flower

  • Mature willow crops in winter

  • A willow living snow fence

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