Background: Poplar (Populus
spp.) hybridization is key to advancing biomass yields and conversion efficiency. Once superior varieties are selected, there is a lag in commercial use while they are multiplied to scale. Objective: The purpose of this study was to assess the influence of gains in biomass yield and quality on investment in rapid propagation techniques that speed the time to commercial deployment. Material and Methods: A factorial experiment of propagation method and hybrid variety was conducted to quantify the scale-up rate of in vitro and greenhouse clonal multiplication. These data were used in modeling the internal rate of return (IRR) on investment into rapid propagation as a function of genetic gains in biomass yield and quality and compared to a base case that assumed the standard method of supplying operational varieties in commercial quantities from nurseries as hardwood cuttings, capable of yields of 16.5 Mg ha−1
. Results: Analysis of variance in macro-cutting yield showed that propagation method and varietal effects as well as their interaction were highly significant, with hedge propagation exceeding serial propagation in macro-cutting productivity by a factor of nearly 1.8. The Populus deltoides
× P. maximowiczii
and the Populus trichocarpa
× P. maximowiczii
varieties greatly exceeded the multiplication rate of the P.
varieties due to their exceptional response to repeated hedging required to initiate multiple tracks of serial propagation. Analyses of investment into rapid propagation to introduce new material into plantation establishment followed by a 20-year rotation of six coppice harvests showed that gains in biomass yield and quality are warranted for a commitment to rapid propagation systems. The base case analysis was generally favored at yields up to 18 Mg−1
dependent on pricing. The rapid multiplication analysis proved superior to the base case analysis at the two highest yield levels (27.0 and 31.5 Mg ha−1
,) at all price levels and at yields of 22.5 Mg−1
, dependent on price and farm location. Conclusion: Rapid multiplication is a reliable method to move improved plant material directly into operations when valued appropriately in the marketplace.
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