Poplars in Italy

In Italy, poplars are the most important source of wood as renewable raw material. They are mostly grown in specialized plantations for the production of logs for plywood production, with rotations of about 10 years. Poplar stands (46,000 hectares), mainly located in the Po valley plain (northern Italy), account for less than 1% of the total forest area but for 40% of domestically-produced industrial roundwood.

The recent availability of clones offering greater environmental sustainability (Maggiore Sostenibilità Ambientale, thus referred to as ‘MSA clones’) characterized by better resistance to the main biotic adversities, makes it possible to develop cultivation models that are less-intensive and more sustainable than traditional ones, by minimizing cultural and pest-control interventions.

Poplar cultivation is important for climate change adaptation and mitigation thanks to poplars’ high capacity to absorb CO2 and accumulate it in wood. Poplar stands are also important elements of the ecological networks and are used as windbreaks.

Most poplar plantations in Italy are cultivated in floodplains, where, in addition to the wood production (on average, about 20 m3/ha per year at the end of rotation), they have a role in both soil protection and water regulation, reducing erosion of riparian soils during flood events.

Plant archives of native Salicaceae (poplars and willows), hybrids and other material coming from foreign countries for ex-situ collections are maintained at the CREA Research Centre for Forestry and Wood in Casale Monferrato, for a total of 1961 accessions and 415 clones.

Certification of the sustainable management of wood plantations according to Forest Stewardship Council® (FSC®) or the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification Schemes (PEFC) has been carried out in Italy for more than a decade and involves about 15% of specialized poplar cultivation.