Limitations for phytoextraction management on metal-polluted soils with poplar short rotation coppice—evidence from a 6-year field trial

Poplar clones were studied for their phytoextraction capacity in the second growth cycle (6-year growth) on a site in the Belgian Campine region, which is contaminated with Cd and Zn via historic atmospheric deposition of nearby zinc smelter activities. The field trial revealed regrowth problems for some clones that could not be predicted in the first growth cycle. Four allometric relations were assessed for their capacity to predict biomass yield in the second growth cycle. A power function based on the shoot diameter best estimates the biomass production of poplar with R2 values between 0.94 and 0.98. The woody biomass yield ranged from 2.1 to 4.8 ton woody Dry Mass (DM) ha−1 y−1. The primary goal was to reduce soil concentrations of metals caused by phytoextraction. Nevertheless, increased metal concentrations were determined in the topsoil. This increase can partially be explained by the input of metals from deeper soil layers in the top soil through litterfall. The phytoextraction option with poplar short rotation coppice in this setup did not lead to the intended soil remediation in a reasonable time span. Therefore, harvest of the leaf biomass is put forward as a crucial part of the strategy for soil remediation through Cd/Zn phytoextraction.