To address concerns over the sourcing of wood chips for the new biomass gasification plant, Middlebury partnered with the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry (SUNY-ESF) to test the feasibility of growing willow shrubs on Middlebury College land. The 10-acre test plot, located beyond the Organic Garden on Route 125, was started in 2007. We are testing multiple varieties of willow shrubs and different cultivation methods to see which could feasibly work to supply biomass for our system.
Five varieties of willows were field planted by machine to represent a mass planting. Several other varieties were hand planted in a grid to allow for more controlled study. Researchers are doing soil and water tests in the hand-planted plots and are applying measured amounts of compost, cow manure, and fertilizers to test the results against a control plot. All of this research will help Middlebury decide which varieties of willow could be planted in the future.