Iggesund’s “Grow your income”-initiative has given farmers the opportunity to diversify part of their farm businesses and become energy suppliers. Providing Iggesund with biomass fuel derived from SRC willow plantations contribute to the reduction of CO2 emissions and play a role in mitigating the adverse effects of climate change. A study led by Rothamsted Research shows that SRC willow plantations in arable farmland also can enhance landscape biodiversity.

Dr Alison Haughton, a Rothamsted Research scientist, who led the study, said: “In order to inform planting strategies of crops that can contribute to energy security whilst conserving and enhancing biodiversity, we need to carry out landscape level studies and examine a range of biodiversity indicators in detail. This is exactly what we did in this study”. Perennial crops, such as SRC willow, remain in the ground for long periods and require low agro-chemical inputs (fertilisers & pesticides). Perennial crops are very different to food crops that are grown for biofuel on an annual basis with high inputs.

Populations of wild birds have fallen significantly since 1970 with farmland birds being particularly affected. There are currently 59 species of birds that are classified as priority species and have Biodiversity Action Plans (BAPs) in place. At least 12 priority bird species are covered by BAPs are frequently found in and around energy crop plantations.

Surveys suggest there are significantly more birds in SRC compared to improved grassland and arable controls. Field margins around SRC coppice energy crops encourage butterfly and other invertebrates. 25 species of butterflies have been identified in and around SRC willow plantations and numbers were found to increase by up to 130 percent on land previously used for arable crops.