New crop taking root in Valley
by Lisa Allen
Valley View Editor
DUVALL--Motorists traveling the Woodinville-Duvall Road are just now starting to notice the appearance of a new crop planted in the floodplain on the north side of the road.
The seedlings, just beginning to leaf out, are hybrid cottonwood/poplar, a fairly new crop that is being grown for pulp production. The pulp produces a high quality paper product.
MB Paper Limited, a subsidiary of Canadian company MacMillan Bloedel, purchased the property (about 320 acres) last year and planted 150 acres in May and June with the cuttings.
Although small now, the trees grow fast and achieve a height of 60-70 feet in less than 10 years.
Bob Rogers, manager of MB Paper, said that the trees, in rows about 10 feet apart, will be harvested in 8-10 years. The trees are planted about 7 1/2 feet apart.
The company held a meeting last year in Duvall to try to ease fears of residents nearby who said the closeness of the stands and rapid growth of the trees could affect floodwaters and even change the flow of the river during times of high water.
Dairy farmers who have endured severe flooding in the past claimed the trees, when they grow to a height of 50 feet or so, will displace water and collect debris.
Rogers told them, though, the amount of land the trees will actually displace is small and that the economics of dairying are forcing farmers into hard times and that poplar farming is a viable alternative.
Last week, Rogers said he doesn't expect any problems with flooding.
He said the trees are self-pruning.
"There aren't a lot of branches lower down to catch debris," he said.
Right now, the main problem the tree growers are experiencing is a population explosion of mice in the fields, he said. The mice eat the bark and roots of the young trees.
"Cultivation of the fields is a necessity," he said. "That makes the mice more available to owls and hawks."
South of Duvall, about 60-70 acres of the trees have been planted by a different company. Those stands, just two years old, are already 15-20 feet tall.
The new crop is being extensively grown in Eastern Washington and Oregon, Mississippi and Alabama, Rogers said.