UMD’s fast-growing Innovatree poses solution for reforestation, environmental cleanup

UMD’s fast-growing Innovatree poses solution for reforestation, environmental cleanup

UMD's fast-growing Innovatree poses solution for reforestation, environmental cleanup

Minnesota researchers have developed a new type of fast-growing tree that can grow 5 to 8 feet per year.

“The Innovatree is an exciting development,” said Rolf Weberg, executive director of the National Resources Research Institute at the University of Minnesota Duluth.

NRRI researchers have spent nearly 30 years breeding trees that are a cottonwood-poplar hybrid, developing more than 1,500 varieties.

“Out of those 1,500, this tree stood out as a performer for disease resistance and fast growth,” Weberg said. “Poplars, which are known as fast-growing trees, typically grow 1 to 2 feet a year. Five feet per year is pretty phenomenal.”

For Minnesotans who have lost trees because of issues such as emerald ash borer, this new tree could offer a quick solution for filling a yard or park.

“It gives you an opportunity to have windbreak, habitat and shade, perhaps while you’re letting a slower-growing tree grow next to it, so you’re getting the best of both worlds that way,” Weberg said.

The Innovatree has also shown itself to be effective at removing pollutants from the atmosphere and soil.

“These trees are really good at phytoremediation, which is a very fancy word for collecting pollutants from the environment,” Weberg said. “This absorbs CO2 out of the atmosphere at a rate four times that of a red pine. And they’re being used at landfill perimeters, so materials that are waterborne, like an organic pesticide, for example, maybe a heavy metal are coming in. It’s one way to remediate soil in damaged areas.”

They unveiled the Innovatree two weeks ago at Hauser’s Superior View Farm in Bayfield, Wisconsin, and Weberg said the trees they had available sold out almost immediately.

Since then, the team has received messages from all over the world with ideas on how the new tree could be used.

“One of the most recent conversations we’ve been having is requests from people who want to reforest Ukraine, so there are really interesting international opportunities here with this Innovatree that we’re really excited about,” Weberg said.

Weberg expects another round of Innovatrees to be available for purchase later this year, with greater availability next year at nurseries across Minnesota and Wisconsin.

You can learn more about the Innovatree here.