Poplar is a fundamental resource for France’s rural life

ProPopulus Team

France is Europe’s first poplar producer. Poplar cultivation in France began in the 1760’s, and although the areas planted with poplar have been shrinking for the last 20 years, today, populicuture creates 12.000 direct non-relocatable jobs and an equal number of indirect jobs in French rural areas, strengthening the economic activity at several layers.

For plantation owners, poplar means an additional source of income, and due to its short rotation cycle –between 15 and 18 years– it provides a quick wood resource compared to other species.  Thus, poplar is a local asset worth preserving and its timber has unique qualities such as resistance, lightness, and its facility to be mechanized.

As for industrial uses, poplar is a popular material for packaging, plywood, construction as well as furniture.

France is the second European producer of light wooden packaging. Poplar is used to make both light and strong packaging in a process that is much less energy-consuming than that of the equivalent to make cardboard or plastic packaging. As a result, poplar as a raw material for packaging is much more sustainable than any other material.

Poplar’s remarkable hygienic qualities, naturally bactericidal, make it perfect for food packaging as it is moisture resistant, aiding in the proper conservation of fruits, vegetables, seafood and is always suitable for cheese and wine. Due to its resistance, poplar is also used to make industrial packaging, such as pallets.

In the French plywood industry poplar use has increased by 40% in the last five years. This has helped the populiculture sector and policy-makers and local authorities, such as the Ministry of Agriculture and Food, to encourage poplar reforestation.

The French Counseil National du Peuplier, an inter-professional body representing every link in the poplar sector –including nurserymen, populicultors, and processors–, has recently published a booklet entitled “Le peuplier, un atout irremplaçable”. The publication details the benefits of poplar as an economically, environmentally sustainable species as well as its uses. It is only available in French, to download it please click here.

Poplar has a long history in France and in 1941 a national poplar subcommission was created. In 1946 it became a national commission made up of representatives of all the professions in the sector, researchers, nurserymen, poplar growers, experts and industrialists associated with the national services that would be affected.

The national commission played an important role in the development of populiculture in France. It used to meet every year, and was very productive in terms of exchange between its members, which gave way to research and development, advice on the list of cultivars to be subsidized, needs for studies on the diseases of certain cultivars, needs and operation of the user industries.

As a public body it was abolished in January 2005. Its professional members thought of the need to create a similar organization that would bring them together, and on September 29 of the same year they founded the existing Counseil National du Peuplier.

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