Harvesting woody biomass from the forest can be a win-win effort.

It can help manage pest, disease and fire issues, be used as a source of cleaner, renewable fuel and provide additional income for woodland owners.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that Kentucky has the potential to produce approximately 2 million dry tonnes of woody biomass annually. Though markets for the material are young or still in the planning stages, the University of Kentucky Department of Forestry is hosting three woody biomass workshops around the state in July to help the private landowner gather information about the subject.

"Right now the markets are limited, but a lot of people are looking," said Jeff Stringer, UK Extension professor for hardwood silviculture and forest operations.

"These meetings will get the current information in front of loggers and landowners, so they understand what the potentials and the pitfalls are, so they can make some wise decisions when, if and as that market comes online."

Usually, when trees are harvested for saw logs and pulp, only the bottom portion of the main trunk is taken. The rest of the tree is left in the forest to decompose, providing nutrients and habitat for wildlife.

Stringer said, if care is taken, landowners could take a bit more of that fallen tree out and use it as a renewable fuel source.

"We've done research and the forestry community is developing guidelines to ensure that biomass harvesting does not inadvertently degrade forests," he said.

"For example, in some places you might want to leave a certain number of tree tops in the woods to provide habitat, organic matter and nutrients, even though all of the tops could potentially be harvested."

And, he pointed out, some places shouldn't be harvested for biomass at all.