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Nebrfarmr
Veteran Advisor

Ethanol from cedar trees

If they could make this work, our energy woes might be a thing of the past LOL.

OK, well maybe not, but it would be doing two great things:  Producing energy, and finding a use for the Eastern Red Cedar, probably the most worthless tree you can find in Nebraska, with the possible exception of the Salt Cedar.

I used to think the only good cedar tree was one that looked like the one in my avitar, but if they can put the trees to good use, all the better.

 

http://www.oaes.okstate.edu/dasnr/Members/trisha.gedon-40okstate.edu/wilkins-looking-for-ethanol-fro...

 

 

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16 Replies
Kay/NC
Honored Advisor

Re: Ethanol from cedar trees

Trees are being used for wood pellets to ship to Europe around here. Is time, they want more hardwood than pine, which is the opposite of thr usual timber industry emphasis in our region. Cellulosic ethanol is the Holy Grail of alternative energy, it seems. Switchgrass, hybrid poplars, waste stuff like peanut hulls, you name it. Every Christmas tree I ever enjoyed as a kid was a red cedar...lots of ours as a family have been, too. In that function, taken free from a fence line, they are priceless.
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Nebrfarmr
Veteran Advisor

Re: Ethanol from cedar trees

They can be quite pretty, and do provide a little habitat, but the problem arises in that their needles are toxic to other plants, so once the trees get about so big, they leave a 'dead spot' under them where grass won't even grow (they shed needles slowly, all the time, like a person 'sheds' hair - only there are more needles every year)

Get the trees thick enough, and NOTHING grows, except more cedar trees.  We have burned some trees, and found that some burn up completely, and others laugh at fire.  Where there were several trees together burned, the only thing that grew under them for 2 years was thistles.  On the rest of the pasture, in 2 months, the grass was as thick as before.

 

The trees are like ticks on a dog.  One here and there don't hurt much, but we have about a thousand per acre too many in a lot of places.

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Kay/NC
Honored Advisor

Re: Ethanol from cedar trees

I understand that in theory, and have observed it in nature. My thinking is that everything has its niche in the ecosystem...we don't have to make money off of every square inch. When the forestry department cruised this place about tne years back, they. Note merchantable pine stands, hardwood dominated areas that they deemed to be wildlife food plots, and some. Areas that just sort of hold the place together, since tney aren't doing much else of " value.". These would be mostly swampy acres that a lot of people see no redeeming value in whatsoever...yet, they are the natural filters for all the water leaving the place...so?!? We have a laid back philosophy inn regards to the needs of nature. Wher some guys feel they need to shoot every deer that browses a row of beans, we figure that the herd will reach a point of natural stasis and won't take too muchnfrom our hayfields when they do. So far, so good. A cedar tree is no different from a lot of allopathic species...they clear out the ground beneath them. I wish the yard ornamentals had that trait, but NO, we have to mulch those....
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Nebrfarmr
Veteran Advisor

Re: Ethanol from cedar trees

The thing is, the Eastern Red Cedar is not at all native to the area.  They were introduced when the Government wanted fast-growing windbreaks established.  The Cedar is a 'sexed' tree, meaning there are male trees, and females with seeds.  They took no care to not plant seed-bearing trees, and they are taking over.  I kid you not, if the cedars get thick enough, NOTHING else grows there.  It is like the Kudzu of the plains.  To top it off, cedars don't have a tight root system, so sidehills covered with cedar trees actually erode and gully much faster than if the trees weren't there.  Native grasses are FAR better at holding the soil in place.

Ask anyone from around here, and they will agree.  A cedar tree not in a windbreak, is a weed.


Now, our native WESTERN cedar trees, have been here forever, and don't seem to kill the grass under them.  They are quite hardy, and slow growing, with very strong rot resistant wood.  They are actually a desirable plant.  The only problem is, it is almost impossible to tell it apart from the Eastern Red Cedar, until after you cut it down.

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Nebrfarmr
Veteran Advisor

Re: Ethanol from cedar trees

Here is something to read, and think about.

This is what a lot of places around here looked like 10-15 years ago.  Now, those same places are so thick, you can't crawl from one end to the other on your hands and knees to get through.

 

http://www.kswoodchopper.com/cedars.html

 

It looks a lot like Figure 2 in this article now. 

 

http://www.k-state.edu/nres/capstone/Redcedar_Report-F10.pdf

 


Everyone around here also thought that cedar trees would 'find a balance' with native plants.  We learned too late, that the natural balance of Eastern Red Cedars is total invasion, where there is essentially nothing else growing there.  They even will choke out the thistles, and leafy spurge.

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Kay/NC
Honored Advisor

Re: Ethanol from cedar trees

IN vasive exotic species are a huge issue in the US...whether it be kudzu, these cedars, Hydrilla in our lakes, or stuff like walking catfish.  Nutria also come to mind.  People mean well in introducing them, but are mistaken. 

 

The choice to transplant a species to a range where it has no natural controls in the web of life means that it will create such an imbalance.  Balance is what it's all about....

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Roy_Smith
Frequent Contributor

Re: Ethanol from cedar trees

For a long time I have wondered why there is no effort to utilize storm damaged trees as an energy source. A city like Omaha seems to have major storm damage every summer.  I guess that those trees go to a land fill. That wood plus other waste organic materials would produce a lot of energy if it were harnassed. Personally I am glad for the cedars as a windbreak tree. I have tried about every other evergreen but with little success. Even the pines that looked so good for so many years are all dying now. I understand what a problem the cedars are in pastures, especially where there is less rainfall than where I farm. I know that in Kansas they have fire districts that burn the grassland every third year or so. Maybe that is the wave of the future where cedars are such a problem. Or possibly the cedars could be a source of waste wood to fuel the energy   industry in the winter when there is little storm damage to be a resource....Soyroy   

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Kay/NC
Honored Advisor

Storm damage

I have been shocked to see entire forest stands laid nearly flat here in NC after hurricanes, and wondered what coudl be done ot salvage them.  We have had a lot of big hardwoods blown down in several of the ones that have made passes through here...Irene got much of what was still standing here above a certain size in August. 

 

One line of a dozen big trees, mostly oaks, went down on just one stretch in a shallow woodland we own here.  Mike has been busy making those into firewood.  We will be set for several winters with just what was lost in this one storm.  He says you can take a different tangent, and find other whole swipes of this kind of damage in almost any given direction.   

 

The really troubling thing is that "trash" trees that have no value for other uses for the most part, survive winds better than anything worth anything for timber or even pulp does.  These don't tend to yield a lot of BTUs when burned, either. 

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Nebrfarmr
Veteran Advisor

Re: Storm damage

If I am not mistaken, it is against Federal regulations to harvest storm damaged timber in National Forests.

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