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Forest research and education in India

By C. R. RANGANATHAN, President, Forest Research Institute and Colleges, Dehra Dun, India

The forest institute estate at Dehra Dun

In India forest research and forest education are centralized in one large institution known as the Forest Research Institute and Colleges. This institution stands on 1,100 acres of land four miles west of Dehra Dun at the foot of the Himalayas. The estate, called New Forest, is a detached residential colony in which most of the workers of the Institute live, and it has a school and a hospital. A demonstration forest, an extensive arboretum, and a botanical garden comprise more than half the area of the estate. The branches dealing with forest research proper, the administrative offices, the herbarium, the museums, the Central Library the Convocation Hall and the Indian Forest College for training forest officers are all housed in a vast and imposing main building, while the laboratories, workshops, and pilot plants connected with forest products research occupy a number of separate buildings scattered over the estate. The estate itself enjoys the legal status of a "reserved forest" under the Indian Forest Act and is under the management of the Central Silviculturist.

The grouping of forest research, forest products research, and forest education for both officers and rangers in one central institution is not so much the result of a deliberate plan as of historical growth. The combination of educational and varied research functions, such as are discharged by the Indian Forest Research Institute, is perhaps a unique arrangement. It gives the Institute the character and atmosphere of a Forest University an effect which is sustained and enhanced by the fact that the Institute stands in a small detached township of its own. It has been said that the branches dealing with forest products research; which have expanded enormously in recent years, really make up an institute within an institute. There are undoubtedly many advantages in thus centralizing under one roof all research and educational activities connected with Indian forestry. However, it is probable that if the Government of India were planning the setting up de novo of an institute for forest products research, the location chosen might be a timber-using industrial center, such as Bombay or Calcutta.

Historical Growth and Development

The present Forest Research Institute and Colleges are outgrowths of a Forest School for training rangers and foresters established at Dehra Dun in 1878 by the then local government, the Government of the North-West Provinces. This school was transferred to the Government of India in 1884 and named the Imperial Forest College. The first research post (property so called) to be created was that of Forest Entomologist in 1900. The Forest Research Institute as such came into being in 1906, as an adjunct to the Imperial Forest College and was historically the second of the central research institutes set up by the Government of India, the Indian Agricultural Research Institute having already been started in 1901. The Forest Research Institute started with the following branches: Silviculture, Economics, Botany, Entomology, and Chemistry. The. Economics branch, together with the Chemistry branch, dealt with all aspects of forest products research, while the other branches were (and are) mainly concerned with the biological aspects of forestry. A considerable advance in the organization of the Economics branch was made in 1921-22, when it was expanded to include well-equipped sections of Timber Testing, Wood Working, Wood Preservation, Wood Seasoning, and Paper and Pulp, as well as the service units of Wood Workshops and Mechanical Engineer shops. A section of Wood Technology dealing with the anatomy and identification of Indian timbers was added later.

A point of interest is that for 40 years prior to 1946 the heads of all the research branches have been forest officers drawn from the Indian Forest Service and from different provinces. The only exception is the Chemistry branch, which has always been in charge of a non-service officer. This fact - and the fact that nearly all Indian Forest Service Officers recruited since 1928, all officers of the Provincial Forest Services, and a predominant proportion of Forest Rangers throughout the country were trained at Dehra Dun - has helped to give the Forest Research Institute a position of prestige and importance in relation to the forest departments and forest services of India. It is generally regarded as the mecca of Indian forestry.

The functions of the Forest Research Institute now extend only to India as constituted at the partition in 1947. Previous to that they had extended to what is now India and Pakistan; earlier still they had extended to Burma until that country separated from India in 1937, through Burma still continues to subscribe to and utilize the services of the Institute's research facilities.

Forestry education

Forest Colleges - Training Courses in Forestry

As has been mentioned, a college for training forest rangers was started at Dehra Dun in 1878. This has continued to function regularly, except for a break of two years in 1933 and 1934, when the need for economy during the then current trade depression caused provinces to suspend recruitment of professional staff. For over 30 years the two-year ranger course was the highest professional forestry training that could be had in India, as direct recruitment to the higher (gazetted) posts was confined to Europeans who had received their training in Germany, France, or England: In 1912, it was decided to open recruitment for the Provincial Gazetted Services to Indians. The Forest Research Institute had expanded considerably since its inception, and moved into new quarters in Chandbagh which were completed in 1914. The development of the Institute made it possible to establish a professional forestry course of a high standard for officers; such a course, known as the Provincial Forestry Course, was started in 1.912. Although of the same duration as the Ranger Course (two years), it was of a higher standard, only graduates in science with a good university record being eligible for it

As a result of a great change in general policy following World War I, the Indian Forest Service was rapidly and progressively Indianized after 1920. The first groups of Indians admitted to that service were trained in British universities. In 1926 it was decided to train probationers for the Indian Forest Service at Dehra Dun. The forests of India had been under professional management for some 50 years and it was believed that the practice and principles of scientific forestry could be adequately demonstrated to the students in Indian forests. The Provincial Forest Service Course was closed, as under the new conditions it was believed that it would no longer be required. The new Indian Forest Service Course was, however, fated to be a short-lived one. In 1932, owing partly to over-recruitment in 1918-22, partly to the world trade slump, and partly to the uncertain political conditions due to the impending reforms, the demand for trained forest officers had shrunk almost to the vanishing point, and the new course was terminated, with the result that for six years there was no advanced forestry training in the country. The Indian Forest College was started in 1938 to train personnel for the gazetted forest services in the provinces and states and has since been working steadily. By this time the former Indian Forest and Provincial Forest Services had been amalgamated into one gazetted service recruited on a provincial basis.

Progressively increasing demands have been made on the capacity of the Indian Forest College since the end of the last war, largely as a result of postwar expansion schemes. These demands were met by doubling the number of classes taken each year in the two colleges, but this could not be done indefinitely without jeopardizing the efficiency of the instruction. Consequently the Government of India decided in 1948 to take over the Madras Forest College at Coimbatore and to run it as a Central Government institution under the auspices of the Forest Research Institute. That college was originally an institution of the Madras Government, designed for training rangers. It has now been expanded and equipped so as to train, like the Colleges at Dehra Dun, 30 forest officers and 70 rangers annually.

The Timber Museum, displaying Indian timbers, their characteristics and utilization.

As implied in the foregoing paragraphs, forestry training in India is a function-of the Central Government and is, as a rule, given to men selected for service in the forest departments. In India forestry is not taught in any university. There is, however, a proposal to affiliate the existing forestry courses at Dehra Dun to Delhi University. There are many advantages in central control of professional forestry education in a country like India. The system of equating the number of youths trained in forestry annually to the requirements of the public service has worked well in the past. In India conditions do not yet offer scope for employment of forestry-trained men in private forests or in industry.

The Botanical Herbarium, containing one of the finest plant collections in the East.

Photographs by courtesy of the Forest Research Institute, Dehra Dun, India.

Forest research

Silvicultural Research

The Silviculture branch, which is one of the oldest in the Institute, deals with all aspects of silvicultural research, including forest management and forest mensuration. It maintains close relations with provincial silvicultural research officers, supplying them with technical assistance, co-ordinating the results of research, and acting as a clearing house for technical information from all over the world. The publications of this branch are numerous, the most outstanding being Troup's Silviculture of Indian Trees - a monumental work embodying the results of research at the Forest Research Institute and all over the country over an extended period Champion's Forest Types of India, Champion and Trevor's Manual of Indian Silviculture, the Statistical Manual, and the Experimental Manual. The silvicultural techniques adopted throughout India are, to a large extent, based on research work done or directed, by the Silviculture branch.

The program of silvicultural research is outlined by quinquennial Silvicultural Conferences held at the Institute, which are attended by provincial silviculturists and senior forest officers' from the entire country.

While tree and crop measurements are carried out by the branch in a large number of sample plots in the provinces, experimental studies relating to seed tests, nursery practice, phenology, exotic species, and effects of heredity are conducted in the Institute's own demonstration area and experimental plantations.

The ledger files of the branch, which are carefully maintained, are a mine of information which has only been partially worked out. An important feature of the branch is its large photographic collection covering all aspects of Indian forestry. The photographs illustrating this article are from that collection.

The Silvicultural branch includes an Ecology section and a Soil Science section.

Studies in Systematic Botany - The Herbarium

The Botany branch comprises the sections of Botany and Mycology. The Botany section is much the older of the two and has produced numerous publications, among which are Flora of Bihar and Orissa, the revised Forest Flora of the Punjab, the Flora of the Anadamans, the Grasses of the United Provinces, and Vol. V of the Flora of Assam, dealing with the Graminae.

An excellent herbarium attached to this branch is now estimated to contain over a quarter-million leaves. It is especially rich in grasses and is recognized as among the best in the East. It includes 1,200 irreplaceable type or co-type specimens representing new genera and species. In it are incorporated collections dating back to 1816 and those of Royle, Falconer, Griffith, Helfer, Wight, Stocks, Dalzell, T. Thomson, and others. Among the more recent collections are those of Brandis, Lace, Gamble, Duthie, Haines, Parker, Parkinson, Bor, Stewart, Mooney, and Raizada. With the help of the herbarium, the Botany branch provides an authoritative technical service to forest officers and botanists in the correct identification of plants.

The branch maintains a botanical garden, while the extensive grounds of the estate constitute a large arboretum which has been enriched by successive introductions of new plants.

Investigations in Tree and Crop Pathology

Although mycological work was started as early as 1911 systematic study of pathogenic fungi was not taken up intensively till 1927, when a Mycology section was formed with a fully qualified mycologist at its head. Investigations of rusts on Pinus longifolia, Pinus excelsa, deodar, spruce, and fir were undertaken, and their host-parasite relationship with stem and needle rusts has been established and remedial measures suggested. The fungal diseases of sal (Shorea robusta) have been studied and a great deal of work has been done on wood-rotting fungi in general. The Mycology section collaborates with the Wood Preservation section in toxicity tests on treated wood.

Insect Pests and Their Control - Insect Collection

The Forest Entomology branch ranks with the Silviculture branch as among the oldest research branches in the Institute. The first Forest Entomologist (then known as Forest Zoologist) was E. P. Stebbing (1906-1909), who is now Professor of Forestry in Edinburgh University. His book, Indian Forest Insects, was the first major contribution to forest entomology in India. He was followed in 1911 by A. D. Imms, who laid the foundations of the reference collection of insects, which is one of the finest in the East. It contains over 17,000 authentically identified species, carefully preserved, duly labeled, and entered in card indexes and in ledger files. Great advances were made during the long tenure of C. F. C. Beeson as Forest Entomologist, and control measures for numerous insect pests were evolved and prescribed. These include control of the tom shoot borer (Hypsipyla robusta), the sal borer (Hoplocerambyx spinicornis), and the teak defoliators (Hyblaea puera and Hapalia machaeralis). Intensive work on the vector of the spike disease of sandal (Santalum album) has been done. The results of the accumulated research work of the branch were published in 1941 in Beeson's Forest Insects. The insect pests of felled bamboos and timber have also received considerable attention.

Forest products research

The foundations of timber research in India were laid by R. S. Pearson, who later became Director of the Forest Products Research Laboratory at Princes Risborough, England. Working with inadequate equipment and under difficult conditions, Pearson collected a mass of information regarding the preservative treatment, seasoning, and strength of Indian timbers. The large Utilization branch which he built up and guided for many years has now been split up into Wood Technology, Wood Working and Timber Mechanics, Wood Preservation and Composite Wood, Wood Seasoning, Chemistry and Minor Forest Products, and Cellulose and Paper branches.

Studies in Wood Anatomy and Structure

The Wood Technology branch - this name is perhaps a misnomer - deals with the anatomy and diagnostic features of Indian woods as well as the correlation between the technical properties of the timbers and their anatomical structure and rates of growth. The field of work is enormous as India has some 5,000 timber species. Between 700 and 800 timbers have al ready been studied in detail, while a general examination has been made of a few hundred more.

One of the main functions of the branch - this was especially the case during the last war - is to discover Indian substitutes for foreign timbers for special uses when imports of the latter become difficult or impossible. A notable discovery was that of red cutch (Acacia chundra) as a substitute for lignum vitae (Guaiacum officinale) used in tail-shaft bearings of ships. Current investigations relate to studies on the conversion of sapwood into heartwood, the relation between anatomical structure and glue bonds, and the structure and identification of fossils of timbers. A revised and detailed publication on the timbers of the Dipterocarpaceae, Malvaceae, Sterculiaceae, Tiliaceae, Guttiferae, Melioceae, Combretaceae, Verbenaceae, and Lauraceae is under preparation.

A large and authoritative publication by Pearson and Brown, entitled Commercial Timbers of India, embodies the earlier results of work done in this and other branches.

The branch maintains an authentic collection of Indian timbers as well as a large collection of photomicrographs.

The Wood Working and Timber Mechanics branch comprises the service units of Wood Workshops, including a small sawmill and a well-equipped Mechanical Engineering workshop and a Timber Testing laboratory.

Testing Methods

The Timber Testing section was started in 1921 with the object of determining the mechanical and strength properties of Indian timbers on a scientific basis and in conformity with international standards. Such work had already been started at the Forest Products Laboratory in Madison, Wisconsin, U.S. A., and the methods adopted there were closely followed. More than a quarter-million tests have so far been made on a large number of Indian timbers, and engineering strength data have been prepared for about 150 species. Representative samples from a number localities have been tested in the case of species like teak, (Shorea robusta), and shisham (Dalbergia sissoo) which: have a wide distribution. By making use of the working-stress figures published by the Forest Research Institute, it is now possible to design timber structures using Indian woods with the same confidence as with structures based on steel and concrete and often with increased economy.

The laboratory has evolved wooden disk dowel joints which can be used cheaply in place of the iron straps,: gussets, and bolts commonly employed in wooden structures.

Wood Preservation

The Wood Preservation and Composite Wood branch carries out research aimed at improving service life and durability of timber by preservative treatment and at increasing the strength, stability, and technical qualities of timber by building up wood, whether as plywood, laminated wood, impregnated and compressed wood, or boards. Preservative treatment is of special importance in the tropical condition of India, where, owing to attacks of white ants and fungi, the natural durability of all but a small number of species such as teak, sal, and deodar is low. A number of preservatives have been tested and extensive studies have been made on coal-tar creosote as a wood preservative.

Sample plot in a teak plantation formed in 1870.

As a result of work done in the branch, an efficient water-soluble preservative known as Ascu (Greensalts in U.S.A.) has been developed. Preservatives have also been developed from cracked vegetable oil and chir pine (Pinus longifolia) resin.

The optimum treating conditions for over 1,000 species of Indian timbers have been determined, and a process of conditioning green sleepers has been evolved.

Investigations on the natural resistance to fire of over 50 timbers have been made; research into the laws of the burning of wood and fireproofing of wood has been undertaken. Work has also been done on the resistance of wood to corrosion.

Composite Wood

Various types of adhesives for wood assembly work and plywood have been evolved from the proteins of seed cakes, leaf proteins, aqueous alcoholic extracts of cereal meals, urea formaldehyde condensates, tar acids, cashew-shell oil, etc. The suitability of various Indian timbers for commercial plywood is being tested, and investigations on the production of a variety of laminated, improved and modified woods have been made with good results. The branch is now being equipped with a complete and modern plywood pilot plant.

The branch is engaged in developing a structural hard board from bamboos.

Wood-Seasoning Problems

The Wood Seasoning branch has studied the air-seasoning characteristics and determined the kiln-drying schedules of a large number of commercially important timbers. A survey has been made of the seasonal variations in the moisture content of wood when exposed to different climatic conditions. Research in some of the fundamental aspects of timber physics, such as the electrical properties of wood and the movement of moisture and heat in wood, has been undertaken, and much information has already been collected. The branch has done useful work in simplifying and standardizing drying kilns and in developing a cheap type of smoke kiln.

The study of the suitability of Indian woods for shuttles, bobbins, picking sticks, battery separators, pencils, etc., is one of the main lines of activity. Work is also being done on the steam-bending of wood.

Raw Materials for Cellulose and Paper

The Cellulose and Paper branch undertakes fundamental and applied research on the utilization of forest resources and agricultural and industrial wastes for the production of pulp, paper, and cellulose. Work done in the branch is mainly responsible for the development of the paper industry in India, which uses bamboo and sabai (Eulaliopsis binata) as the raw materials. The use of these materials was made possible by the development at the Forest Research Institute of the fractional method of digestion for the production of easy bleaching pulps at economic cost by either the soda or sulphate process. Research in the branch has also led to the production of kraft paper from bamboo.

One of the main problems of the branch is to discover a suitable raw material for newsprint, which at present is not being made in the country. Spruce and silver fir, the recognized raw materials for the purpose, although available in India, occur at high elevations on the Himalayas and cannot be produced at factory sites at economic cost. Recent work done in the Institute on Broussonetia papyrifera has given encouraging results. It is believed that plantations of this fast-growing species can be raised in suitable localities and worked on short rotations for the production of pulpwood for newsprint.

The branch is being equipped with a modern United States paper machine.

The branch renders regular technical service to the paper industry in India by supplying information and training technicians. It maintains close liaison with the industry.

Utilization of Minor Forest Products

The Chemistry and Minor Forest Products branch carries on research in the utilization of all forest products other than timber. Out of a total flora of about 14,000 species in India, over 3,000 are in use: as sources of raw materials for various industries or for medicinal and other purposes. These products comprise essential oils, drugs, gums, mucilages, pectins, tans, oils, dyes, waxes, fibers, flosses, resins, etc. The field of work is enormous. The branch has played an active part in the establishment of the turpentine and rosin industry and in the production of santonin and ephedrine. More recent work has led to the production of a pectinaceous material from the seeds of Tamarindus indica, a waste product of the tamarind pulp industry. This is used as sizing in the textile industry in place of starch. A new source of natural camphor from a shrub has been discovered, and cultivation experiments are in progress.

Interesting work has also been done on soil stabilization through the addition of small quantities of vegetable matter.

Statistical Planning and Control

A new Statistical branch has recently been created. Its function is to advise on the layout of experiments and to carry out statistical analyses of the results obtained, not only at the Forest Research Institute but also in the provinces. The usefulness of the new branch has already begun to be felt.

Reorganization and expansion since World War II

The importance of forests and forest products in the economy of the country was forcibly emphasized by the experiences of the war years 1939-45. During this difficult period, not only did imports of forest products into India dwindle or cease, but India was called upon to export timber and other forest products to the Middle and Near East and to meet its greatly increased requirements from its own unaided resources. Great inroads were made on the forests of India. The Forest Research Institute was called in to find substitutes for many timbers in short supply and to help the war effort in numerous ways. The war showed clearly the great potential and actual usefulness of the Institute to the nation and high-lighted its deficiencies of equipment and personnel. When the war was over, a large reorganization scheme aiming at the extension and modernization of equipment and buildings and the strengthening of research personnel at an estimated capital cost of over Rs. 6,000,000 (about US$ 1,800,000) was sanctioned by the Government of India. The scheme is in process of implementation. Postwar shortages of structural materials, firewood, and other forest products have underlined the need for intensified research in forestry and forest products. But financial difficulties have now cropped up, and the progress of reorganization will have to be slowed down, although much has already been accomplished.

Despite the large output of publications by the Forest Research Institute and the close' liaison that exists between it and the forest departments as well as the major industries using forest products, it has been felt that improved arrangements should be made for the quick dissemination of research findings and general forestry information, not only among those directly interested in forestry and forest industries but also among the general public. With this object in view, a new Publicity and Liaison branch has been set up. Its business is to organize publications and propaganda, take part in exhibitions, set up showrooms, convene conferences, receive and conduct visitors to the Institute, and in general to do everything possible to increase the technical service of the Institute to the people.

Forest research institute and colleges, India

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