Harvesting Short Rotation Coppice Willow at Newton Rigg College

Photo shows staff from Iggesund Paperboard harvesting short rotation coppice willow at Newton Rigg College
An insight into the practical and commercial elements of producing short rotation coppice (SRC) willow was given to Newton Rigg College students when the college’s SRC willow plantation at Sewborwens Farm was harvested recently.
First and second year forestry students had the opportunity to learn first hand from industry specialists, Iggesund Paperboard, when the company harvested the crop, transforming it on site into willow chip. This was then transported to the company’s mill in Workington to be turned into biomass fuel. Students were told that the amount harvested at the college would be sufficient to provide enough electricity for Carlisle’s domestic electricity needs for almost two days. Students were also involved in clearing and tidying the harvested site.
This follows a visit by students to the Iggesund site last autumn when they were able to see the new biomass boiler and the processes involved in the paperboard making process were explained.
Richard Hunter, Course Lecturer said: “Working with Iggesund gives our students a wonderful opportunity to observe an industry leader putting into practice efficient, cost effective and up to date methods of biomass production. It complements the teaching they receive in college and will certainly stand them in good stead when they come to enter the workplace.”
With the growth in interest in biomass generally, SRC willow plantations are at the cutting edge of rapid production of biomass fuel. SRC can provide a regular and reliable income with relatively little day to day management. In addition, plantations have the benefit of providing numerous environmental benefits, including flood mitigation and control of soil erosion, countering climate change. For some it can provide a two crop income, the first from the harvest, and the second from shooting lets and other double crop opportunities.
The college’s countryside and game management courses are run by Malcolm Riding who commented: “The Newton Rigg College farm is typical of many in Cumbria with its emphasis on dairy/livestock production however they can be improved to create a diversity of habitats providing food and shelter for game and wildlife. Our SRC areas, alongside habitat created under the Countryside Stewardship Scheme and Higher Level Stewardship, enhance this provision and have greatly increased the farm’s variety of wildlife. We have also been able to use the SRC to release and hold pheasants and redlegged partridge on our driven game shoot. In 2010 this helped us win a special Purdey Award for shooting, education and wildlife conservation.”
Neil Watkins, Alternative Fuels Manager at Iggesund said: “It’s been a pleasure to work with the students and the college staff and we hope this will develop further to bring education and industry closer together. Investing in the next generation is vital. We will continue to develop the best management and machinery practices to make our operation sustainable and as efficient as possible.”
29 April 2014
Media contact: Judy Thompson 07903 326 170 or judy@publicity-plus.co.uk
Editors Notes
Iggesund Paperboard is a member of the Holmen Group and one of Europe´s leading manufacturer of high quality virgin fibre paperboard for use in the packaging and graphics sectors. Owners of Invercote and Incada, two of the leading paperboard brands on the market, Iggesund holds a very strong position in the market due to a combination of consistent quality, high performance and an outstanding track record in sustainability.
Iggesund recently invested £ 108m in changing the energy system in the mill from fossil natural gas to biomass. The switch has resulted in a massive reduction of fossil carbon dioxide emissions, equal to taking more than 65,000 cars off the road.
One of the critical stages of energy crop cultivation is the harvest, which must be carried out efficiently. As a result, Iggesund Paperboard has designed its offering to local farmers so that the company takes on the risk of the harvesting costs. This decision also puts pressure on Iggesund to quickly develop and test methods which work well in Cumbria.
Newton Rigg College offers full and part time further and higher education courses which include agriculture, horticulture, forestry, countryside management, sport, engineering, equine, child care, game-keeping and conservation and animal management.
A £3m investment plan, announced in November 2012, is currently underway which will transform the campus updating existing buildings. A state of the art £2.4 dairy unit was officially opened by Lord Curry in March 2014. In June 2013 a 5,000 acre Cumbrian grouse moor was added to the College’s already extensive list of facilities and is already being well used by gamekeeping and countryside management students.