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Doctoral defence of Xiaoqian Xu, Master of Agriculture, 10.2.2023: Land-use patterns of energy crops in the agricultural landscape

The doctoral dissertation in the field of Forestry will be examined at the Faculty of Science, Forestry and Technology, Joensuu Campus.

What is the topic of your doctoral research? Why is it important to study the topic?

My research topic is land use of biomass production for energy use purposes, relating to the land-use changes by establishing energy crop plantations and creating diversity in the surrounding landscape. Biomass production from agricultural land can be obtained from different energy crops.

This study particularly focuses on the lignocellulosic energy crops on agricultural land. The lignocellulosic energy crops have the advantages of high biomass yields and short rotation periods, which provide advantages in biomass production. Studying biomass production could not only help with energy generation in a sustainable way but also provide several co-benefits to the environment.

What are the key findings or observations of your doctoral research?

My research observations are based on past and ongoing spatial patterns of energy crops, including willow, poplar, hybrid aspen, and reed canary grass. The research firstly identifies the core cultivation areas of energy crops regarding the agro-climatic conditions, for instance, reed canary grass is particularly tolerant to harsh conditions. Improved biomass harvest efficiency is also identified, and landscape diversity increases. Different land uses have appeared in the nearby landscape to a certain extent. Besides these, land-use changes have been driven by energy crop cultivation. Several factors have influenced the expansion of biomass production, such as subsidies and cereal prices.

How can the results of your doctoral research be utilised in practice?

The research could reflect the decision-making of farmers on growing crops and spatial management of the crop plantations. The results of this research could contribute to a better understanding of land-use changes associated with energy crops and help define their contribution to diversifying the agricultural landscape. The results could be utilized from the spatial perspective as the reference for future lignocellulosic biomass production management in Northern Europe or elsewhere.

What are the key research methods and materials used in your doctoral research?

The research applies methodological principles of multiple spatial analysis, mainly based on kernel density estimation and landscape metrics. This research focuses on fast-growing tree species (willow, poplar, and hybrid aspen) and energy grasses (reed canary grass) growing in the Swedish agricultural landscape during the period 1986-2018 and uses empirical data and economic indicators to link biomass productions with agro-climatic conditions and land-use changes from field to landscape level.

The doctoral dissertation of Xiaoqian Xu, Master of Agriculture, entitled Land-use patterns of energy crops in the agricultural landscape  will be examined at the Faculty of Science, Forestry and Technology, Joensuu Campus. The opponent will be Associate Professor Niclas Scott Bentsen, University of Copenhagen, and the custos will be Associate Professor Blas Mola-Yudego, University of Eastern Finland. Language of the public defence is English.

For more information, please contact:

Xiaoqian Xu,,Twitter: XiaoqianXu1