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Taking into account global concerns on food security, most of the next two decades’ expected increase in bioenergy demand will likely be met by lignocellulosic crops (trees). The literature about landholders’ views on new tree planting to date has focused on forestry projects or environmental services, while the literature about growing trees for bioenergy has mainly focused on countries with a long-standing forestry tradition. There is a gap in the literature about key factors influencing adoption of trees as energy crops in developed countries as well as potential pathways to build a critical mass of tree growers who could supply a bioenergy industry. To address this gap, a conceptual framework based on adoption of innovation theory was used to explore the potential adoption of trees as energy crops and landholders’ preferences in the design of contracts for planting these trees in the Central West, New South Wales.
This study used a mixed methods approach, mainly, participant observation, a landholder face-to-face survey, a choice model experiment, buffer analysis of spatial datasets, and break-even analysis. Tobit and logit regression models reveal that the perceived area of unproductive land, landholders’ trust in organisations, and landholder’s experience with planting blocks of trees positively influence the planting decision, while landholder’s age would negatively influence this decision. The choice model experiment revealed that landholders who have planted blocks of trees would be most likely to accept less flexible contracts, while landholders with larger proportions of perceived unproductive land would prefer higher returns.
At present, growing hardwood trees as bioenergy crops does not make economic sense, however, with a 20 per cent to 30 per cent increase in oil price, it may be economically viable. Some potential pathways for developing a critical mass of landholders growing trees as bioenergy crops in the region are explored taking into account landholders’ contract design preferences and trust in organisations.
Sandra has a MSc Ecological Economics from the University of Edinburgh, UK, and BSc Forest Sciences from the National Agricultural University La Molina, Peru. Since 2002, she has researched natural resource management, ecosystem assessment and participatory planning with international organisations: FAO, World Agroforestry Centre and International Centre for Tropical Agriculture, working across the tropics; and national agencies such as the Ministry of Environment and the Science and Technology Council in Peru. Before starting her PhD, she explored policies to implement a whole-landscape approach for reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation in Peru.