What we do

Soil erosion has been a major issue over much of New Zealand's land surface since land clearance began. By the 1930s flooding and soil erosion were such a concern that in 1941 the Soil Conservation and Rivers Control Act was passed. This established Catchment Boards whose function was to reduce the extent and risk of soil erosion and flooding.

Poplars and willows were identified as the tree species most suitable for stabilising soil while the land was being pastorally farmed. An introduction and selection programme for poplars and willows was initiated in the 1950s and has continued till the present day. Support for the programme has been minimal since 1991. Greater intensification in modern farming operations has increased the requirement for resilience in farming systems. Poplars and willows have an important and continuing role in developing greater resilience in farming systems.

Flooding poses an increasing risk to both farming systems and urban settlement and systems to prevent flooding are costly. Poplars and willows provide an affordable bioengineering tool for reducing erosion of stream and river banks and for managing flood risk.

Both species are being used internationally and locally for fodder, bioremediation and biomass for fuel.

Our role is to improve the quality, suitability and use of these resources and to support the endusers through breeding, testing and releasing new poplar and willow clones, through research and through the provision of extension services.