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Profitability of timber plantations on agricultural land in the Po valley (northern Italy): a comparison between walnut, hybrid poplar and polycyclic plantations in the light of the European Union Rural Development Policy orientation

  • Pra, Alex1, 2
  • Brotto, Lucio2
  • Mori, Paolo3
  • Buresti Lattes, Enrico4
  • Masiero, Mauro1
  • Andrighetto, Nicola2
  • Pettenella, Davide1
  • 1 University of Padova, TESAF Department, Viale dell’Università, 16, Legnaro, PD, 35020, Italy , Legnaro (Italy)
  • 2 University of Padova, ETIFOR, Padova University Spin-Off, c/o TESAF Department, Viale dell’Università, 16, Legnaro, PD, 35020, Italy , Legnaro (Italy)
  • 3 Compagnia delle Foreste, Arezzo, Via Pietro Aretino 8, Arezzo, AR, 52100, Italy , Arezzo (Italy)
  • 4 Association of Tree Farming for Economy and the Environment, Loc. Talzano 12, Arezzo, AR, 52100, Italy , Arezzo (Italy)
Published Article
European Journal of Forest Research
Springer Berlin Heidelberg
Publication Date
Mar 13, 2019
DOI: 10.1007/s10342-019-01184-4
Springer Nature


In the last decades, the Rural Development Policy of the European Union has been encouraging timber plantations on agricultural land with an increasing focus on supporting multifunctional forest investments, favouring a diversification of timber plantation investment possibilities. In this study, we estimated and analysed the potential financial returns from forest plantations on agricultural land in the context of the Po valley (northern Italy). We compared traditional monospecific walnut and hybrid poplar plantations with polycyclic plantations, an innovative model of mixed and multi-rotation plantation with much higher positive impact in terms of biodiversity. We defined different management models according to site fertility and investment costs and carried out a financial analysis using typical capital budgeting indicators, i.e. net present value, equivalent annual value and internal rate of return. Our results show that polycyclic plantations can reach on average the highest investment returns, although there are significant variations depending on site fertility and investment cost levels. The diversification of species, rotations and final assortments of polycyclic plantations appear to be potentially successful elements to cope with market risks. Hybrid poplar plantations are the most consolidated segment of investment but show the largest variability in terms of potential returns. For walnut plantations, the longer payback period can negatively influence the investment attractiveness. Results were analysed and discussed also considering the opportunity costs associated with the alternative agricultural land use (annual crops), and the effect of subsidies, land use costs and timber stumpage price variations. These proved to be determinant variables in influencing potential investments returns.

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