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The work of FAO

Fourth meeting of the technical committee on wood chemistry
Conference on mechanical wood technology
Technical committee on forestry education
European forestry and forest products commission

Fourth meeting of the technical committee on wood chemistry

The Fourth Meeting of the Technical Committee on Wood Chemistry was held in Brussels from 05 to 27 August 1949, under the auspices of the Belgian National FAO Committee. Dr. H. Mark, Director of the Institute of High Polymer Chemistry and of the Chemical Department of the Brooklyn Polytechnic Institute, New York, was chairman, and members from 13 countries participated. Countries represented were: Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Finland, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the United States of America.

At the opening of the meeting, Mr. Glesinger of the FAO Forestry and Forest Products Division stressed the necessity for making practical application now of the hitherto mostly theoretical work of the Committee. He said that in many instances governments were seeking technical advice from the Division, and important banking organizations were consulting the Division about specific investment projects involving forestry and forest industries. Such cases are referred to the Division's committees of experts. The United Nations Technical Assistance Program has further enlarged the scope of work with which these committees should deal.

The following agenda was adopted: (1) Integrated wood utilization; (2) Pulping of tropical wood species and other materials; (3) Progress in cellulose chemistry; and (4) Progress in lignin chemistry.

After the business session of the first day's meeting, the Belgian FAO Committee organized a visit to the Chemical Laboratory and the Museum of the Belgian Congo, followed by a reception given by the Director of the Museum. A number of delegates participated in an excursion to the Ardennes forests and visited the pulp and paper factories in Duffel, near Antwerp.


Papers were presented on the following subjects: "Integrated Wood-using Industries in Australia and New Zealand" by W. E. Cohen, "Development of Integrated Forest Utilization in the United States" by J. A. Hall, "The State of Integrated Forest Utilization in Canada" by J. H. Jenkins, "The Economics of Forestry Combinates on a Small Scale" by J. A. von Monroy, "The Future of the Pyrolysis of Wood (Wood Carbonization)" by J. Gillet, "The Progress of the Saccharification of Wood and Alcohol-Production from Wood or its By-products" by A. Villière. As a result of the discussion of these papers, the following conclusions were drawn by the Committee:

Conclusion 1

(a) The Committee recognizes and wishes to call attention to the fact that integrated forest utilization on an industrial scale is making rapid progress in several regions of the world and is believed to be a dominant trend in the development of forest industries. Since, although varying in size and in composition, "integrated utilization" is now in successful operation or being developed in the Scandinavian countries, Central Europe, North America, and Australia and New Zealand, its technical and economical feasibility for most forest types is made clear.

(b) The composition of integrated utilization units and their size depend on a variety of economic, social, physical, and market conditions. As a result there exists no single combination of units that is universally applicable. On the other hand, it is noted that integrated utilization in the Scandinavian countries and North America has frequently and successfully served as a model for the installation of similar plants in other parts of the world.

(c) The Committee recommends that attention be called to the many examples of the successful integration of wood-using industries developed under favorable conditions and having as their objects more complete utilization and more efficient forestry practice.

(d) In order to promote the fullest consideration of the possibilities of integrated utilization in present and future operations, the Committee invites FAO to collect, with the assistance of Committee members and special experts and through other proper channels, the most complete data possible on the technical and economic results of integrated utilization from all countries where such operations have been installed. FAO is requested to circulate its findings and any additional comment among Committee members as early as possible in order to facilitate review and discussion at the next meeting of the Committee.

(e) The discussions at the present session have brought out the current trend toward the combination of at least two types of industry, one based on mechanical conversion (sawmills, plywood, etc.), the other designed to use primarily wood as a source of fibers (pulp and paper, various types of wallboards, etc.). Such integration has been demonstrated to be technically desirable and feasible under a wide range of conditions. Other elements of integrated utilization are: wood hydrolysis, destructive distillation, recovery of alcohol and lignin products from waste liquors, and utilization of resin and bark. All of these have found commercial application. Although the latter processes can contribute substantially to raising the over-all yields from integrated operations, they do not lend themselves to the same general application as the two types first mentioned.

(f) Further technical and economic research is recommended to determine and improve conditions for the industrial application of all phases of utilization, as well as to establish the technical solutions needed to raise further the over all yields and financial returns from "integrated operations."


The following papers were presented: "The Utilization of Tropical Forests for the Production of Pulp and Paper" by P. le Cacheux and R. Peteri, "Some Factors Affecting the Assessment of Pulpwood Quality" by W. E. Cohen, "Studies Concerning the Influence of Certain Anatomical and Physical Properties of Wood Species on Pulp Qualities" by A. Villière, "Cellulose from Annual Crops, Especially from Cornstalks" by A. Küng, "Cellulose Production from Eucalyptus saligna by the Sulfate Process" by F. Hohngren, F. Vay, J. Ruby, and H. Cape, "Study of Cana picanilla as Raw Material for Paper Pulp" by J. J. Patteta, J. Ruby, and H. Capo, "Argentine Forestry Problems" by L. Tortorelli, "Nitration as a Tool in the Study of Wood Pulping Processes" by O. Bryde, "Use of Subtropical Brazilian Woods for the Cellulose Industry" by H. Rys. The conclusion drawn from the discussion of these papers is given below.

Conclusion 2

Subtropical and tropical wood species can be successfully pulped by standard alkaline cooking methods with only minor modifications. When pure stands are not available, cooking conditions can be selected for the pulping of mixed species although, in general, under these circumstances the optimum yields and properties for each species may not be obtained. It is, however, claimed that in certain cases the cooking of mixtures can even improve the average yield and quality of the pulp.


Dr. Mark, chairman of the meeting, pointed out that two problems are now being most intensively studied: (a) possible weak spots in glucose, and (b) the reason for the important differences in the reactivity of celluloses showing identical analytical standard figures. He said that the answer is most probably to be found in the studies of the degree of lateral order and crystallization.

Next, Dr. Mark showed a series of new slides on the application of the electronic microscope and shadow-casting to wood studies which may eventually add the realm of fibrils (500-2000 A) to our direct and visually attainable knowledge. The photos showed parts of primary cells of hardwood and spruce; secondary cell-walls in the natural state, after mild hydrolysis, and after ordinary cooking; and a bacterial cellulose.

Prof. Ant-Wuorinen spoke on "The Existence of Carboxylic Groups in Cellulose Materials," explaining that native, unoxydized samples, pretreated by his method of washing with a simultaneous stream of pure nitrogen, do not exhibit any acidic character.

Prof. G. Centola in his report on "Characteristics of Pulps for the Production of Rayon" discussed his new method of filtrability, showing the relations between the macromolecular structure of various pulps and the filtrability of viscose solutions made from them.

Mr. W. E. Cohen reported on "Acid-sensitive Links in Eucalypt Cellulose" and on the chain-length distribution in nitrated carbohydrates of these woods, providing evidence to support the theory of Schulz and Flusemann that naturally occurring celluloses contain a periodic link susceptible to acid hydrolysis.


In "Some Remarks Concerning the Contents of Lignin in the Woods of the Congo," Prof. A. Castagne described his methods of sampling as well as his analytical procedures. His conclusions, as well as the ensuing discussions, showed the great difficulties in this field and the necessity to choose different methods of lignin determination according to the whole chemical composition of each species, eventually adding more specific analytical determinations.

On account of the urgency of this matter the Chairman was authorized to further the respective research work in conjunction with the Subcommittees for Standards and Nomenclature of FAO's Wood Chemistry Committee as well as with those of the Technical Association of the Pulp and Paper Industry (TAPPI) and the American Chemical Society, in order to present a report on this question at the next meeting. Further a Subcommittee for Lignin-Determination was constituted under the chairmanship of Mr. W. E. Cohen, who presented a paper on investigation of eucalypt lignin by means of a methanol cooking procedure, isolating a buff-colored powder which retains all the reactions of lignin in situ.

Prof. von Wacek reported on "New Contributions to the Chemistry of Lignin." He said that as lignin is recognized as a condensate of partly oxydized and partly only mettrylated phenylpropane units, there remains open one important question: what is the exact distribution of the oxygen in the side-chains of natural lignin?

Discussion of the reports resulted in the following conclusion:

Conclusion 3

The Committee has heard eight reports on recent progress in the chemistry of cellulose and lignin, bringing to light the rapid development in this field. It draws the attention of FAO to the fact that some of these new developments will soon enter the stage of practical application. The Committee will put on the agenda of its annual meeting in 1950 a comprehensive report on practical application of recent scientific results.

The Committee further suggested the following agenda for its next meeting:

Part I - Scientific Progress in

1. Cellulose chemistry
2. Lignin chemistry
3. Resin chemistry

Part II - Industrial Development

1. Integrated wood utilization (Progress report on the latest developments to be prepared by FAO in conjunction with the Committee members. See Conclusion 1, paragraph d.)

2. Progress in the pulping of

(a) tropical woods,
(b) temperate hardwoods.

3. Chemical utilization of other cellulose materials.

Part III - International Co-operation

(Progress reports to be presented by the secretariat.)

To further international co-operation in the field of wood chemistry, the Committee offered assistance from its members to the FAO secretariat in the preparation of the following:

1. An English-French glossary of terms relating to wood chemistry
2. International standards for paper testing methods
3. A list of scientific institutes and laboratories in the field of wood chemistry

Upon request of Committee members, the FAO secretariat will endeavor to collect information on scientific work undertaken or planned in various countries with regard to specified subjects.

Conference on mechanical wood technology

FAO's first World Conference on Mechanical Wood Technology was held at Geneva from 29 August to 3 September 1949 and was attended by 34 delegates representing 20 countries: Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Czechoslovakia, Dominican Re public, Finland, France, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, the United Kingdom, and the United States of America.

An address of welcome was delivered by Mr. Leloup, Director of the Division of Forestry and Forest Products, acting as the representative of FAO's Director-General. He pointed out that the alleviation of the world shortage of wood, which would become more pressing as FAO came nearer to attaining its objective of raising the standard of living of all peoples, is possible by means of: (a) improved forest management; (b) utilization of unexploited forests and afforestation of denuded areas; and (c) reduction of waste. He emphasized the fact that a very thorough knowledge of the mechanical properties of wood is required to put to use unexploited forests and to better utilize wood and its by-products. A notable advance toward these objectives would be standardization of all wood-testing on an international scale, he said, so that information and data could become readily exchangeable and wood could be classified in generally accepted, well-defined categories. As the first step, one of the main tasks of the Conference would be the discussion of an international agreement on the mechanical testing of wood.

The Conference then adopted the following agenda: (1) Mechanical testing of wood; (2) Preparation of recommendations for the international standardization of mechanical testing of wood; (3) Physical and mechanical testing of fiberboards, plywood, and modified wood; (4) Standard grading of timber; (5) The role of FAO's Committee on Mechanical Wood Technology in the United Nations Technical Assistance Program.

Mr. J. G. Campredon, Director of the National Timber Institute of France, was elected Chairman, with Mr. B. H. Thunell, Technical Director of the Tim her Research Laboratory, Stockholm, and Mr. J. L. Bienfait, Director of the Forest Products Research Institute, Delft, the Netherlands, as Vice-Chairmen.

The recommendations of the Conference were drafted by a committee consisting of Mr. L. J. Markwardt, Assistant Director of the Forest Products Laboratory, Madison, Wisconsin (U.S.A.), as rapporteur, and the following members: Mr. J. L. Bienfait, Mr. J. A. Collardet, Mr. If. Kühne, and Mr. J. Latham.


First, consideration was given to the work carried out in the past by FAO's Committee on Mechanical Wood Technology, and its recommendations on the mechanical testing of wood were unanimously adopted.

After having examined and discussed a number of progress reports and proposals on the standardization of wood testing presented by Mr. Cooper (Australia), Mr. Markwardt (U. S. A.), Mr. Bienfait (Netherlands), Mr. Kühne (Switzerland), and Mr. Siimes (Finland), the Conference reached complete agreement on a number of methods of wood testing, thus laying the groundwork for an eventual international convention for the standardization of all testing methods. The Conference recommended that special efforts be made to facilitate the continuous dissemination and exchange of information and data on standardization on an international basis.

The specific points on which the Conference reached agreement and adopted recommendations were: 1. General conditions of testing wood, relating particularly to basic tests of small clear specimens for evaluating the properties of wood; 2. Compression test parallel to grain; 3. Static bending test; 4. Tension parallel to grain; and 5. Impact bending.

Progress was reported on the special studies of shear testing methods and tension perpendicular to; grain, compression perpendicular to grain, cleavage, and hardness. The Conference recommended that these studies be continued and completed and that recommendations be prepared for consideration by the next Conference. As to the standardization of an abrasion test, since there is a notable difference in the usability of the machines under review it was recommended that further studies be undertaken and that possible new developments be included.

In order to carry forward still further the work of the Conference on methods of testing and interpretation of data, other special studies were assigned on moisture-strength relations and on cleavage and tension perpendicular to grain. Reports on the first subject will be presented at the next Conference by Mr. Travnik (Czechoslovakia), and on the latter by Messrs. Bienfait, Cooper, Kühne, and Markwardt.


Mr. Markwardt presented a very detailed report on methods for testing fiberboards. He referred to valuable contributions from Sweden, Great Britain, Germany, France, and Austria. The Conference found it necessary to continue these studies in view of the complexity of the subject and of the necessity for establishing methods for some additional tests, such as impact resistance. The Conference therefore designated a study committee consisting of Messrs. Markwardt, Brauns, Collardet, Jenkins, and Latham, with special instructions to determine the scope of application of the methods with respect to types of material, the kind of tests to be standardized, and the procedures to be used for each with respect to sampling and method of test. On the basis of discussions and a report by Mr. Siimes on veneer, plywood, and related materials, the Conference appointed a study committee consisting of Messrs. Latham, Collardet, Wright, Jenkins, Markwardt, and Thunell. Their task is to prepare for the next meeting a draft standard scheme, taking into account methods in all countries, including aircraft and navy specifications, and to consider the possible establishment of a list of definitions and terms relating to veneer, plywood, and related materials.


The Conference recognized the great difficulties encountered in the attempt to standardize commercial grades and sizes of sawn timber because of well-established trade rules in many countries and differences in growth structure and characteristics among the various species. The Conference came to the conclusion, however, that substantial progress could be made in summarizing the basic principles of structural grading essential to economical and efficient engineering use of timber. It recommended, therefore, that a study be made of the definition of terms and that, as far as possible, uniform principles of structural gradings that could be generally applied to all species be established. The Conference appointed a special study committee to carry forward this program. Members are Messrs. Siimes, Campredon, Dahlquist, Jenkins, Kühne, Latham, Markwardt, and Travnik.


In treating the problem of nomenclature of commercial woods, the Conference came to the conclusion that it should be possible to reach a certain degree of generalization and simplification in recommending the exclusive use of one or more commercial designations to identify each species. It therefore entrusted the Forest Products Branch of FAO's Division of Forestry and Forest Products with the task of compiling and reconciling the official and already established nomenclatures developed by competent organizations in a number of countries,, and to prepare a list of designations which could usefully be generalized.

The nomenclature to be established should give, besides the designations recommended, the botanical names, the average specific gravity, preferably at 12% moisture content, and all other information necessary to facilitate the choice of eventual uses.


Mr. Glesinger of FAO pointed out that in contributing to the United Nations Program of Technical Assistance to underdeveloped countries, by giving practical advice to member governments on specific points, FAO would have to rely on expert bodies, such as the present Conference, for help and for the selection of technicians for specific missions. It was suggested that the Conference should authorize the Chairman to maintain continuous relations with FAO, in order to, advise it on technical matters, and with the delegates of the Conference, in order that their help might be enlisted when any problems arose in connection with the Program of Technical Assistance on which they were particularly qualified to deal. This suggestion was unanimously approved.


After unanimous adoption of the resolutions presented by Mr. Markwardt as Rapporteur of the drafting committee, the Chairman laid particular stress on the progress achieved by the Conference towards an international standardization of timber testing. He noted that agreement was reached on many points where previous attempts over the last two decades had failed, thereby providing the basis for an international convention on mechanical wood testing, a draft of which is to be prepared by FAO for consideration at the next Conference.

Technical committee on forestry education

As many specialists on forestry education were present at the Third World Forestry Congress in Helsinki, Professor Champion (United Kingdom), Chairman of the Technical Committee on Forestry Education, called a meeting together on 16 July at the "Forest House" of the University of Helsinki.

Professors Dwight (Canada), Oudin and Rol (France), Ranganathan (India), Houtzagers (Netherlands), Vahid (Pakistan), Streyffert (Sweden), Leibundgut (Switzerland), Saatcioglu (Turkey), Garratt and Shirley (United States) attended. Mr. François of FAO acted as secretary to the meeting.

After a short report by the secretary on the work being done by FAO's Division of Forestry and Forest Products to assemble and supply information for governments, institutions, and private persons in this field, the Chairman outlined the object of the meeting: Since a great many countries are at present making efforts to begin forestry education or to create forestry schools, it would appear very useful to lay down minimum requirements for such training and schools, in order to ensure an adequate supply of trained foresters and forest officers to carry out the tasks governments or private organizations may assign to them. The meeting achieved a remarkable unity of views on the problem, and its recommendations will be most useful for FAO's work in this field.

European forestry and forest products commission

The second session of the European Forestry and Forest Products Commission was held at Geneva from 5 to 10 September, 26 delegates from 15 countries being present. Countries represented were: Austria, Belgium, Czechoslovakia, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany (Bizone and French Zone), Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom. Yugoslavia and the International Labour Organisation sent observers. Mr. Owen J. Sangar, Director of Forestry, England (United Kingdom), was elected Chairman of the meeting and Mr. Eino Saari, Professor of Forest Economics, University of Helsinki (Finland), Vice-Chairman.

Leading forestry authorities of Europe conducted a series of discussions designed to produce better co-ordination of the forest policies of their countries on an over-all European basis and to improve timber resources and forestry practices. Reports were read of advances made in some countries, and special attention was given to the technical requirements necessary for increasing the productivity of European forests.

The extent of the disastrous forest fires that recently ravaged the Landes district of France was described, and the Commission agreed that member countries should provide all possible assistance in helping France to restore its forest economy. In particular, the possibility of purchases of fire-killed timber, which must be used at once, will be urged by Commission members on returning to their countries.

The Commission approved a program of study designed to improve the quality of new forests by the introduction of superior strains of trees. To attain that objective, the Commission contemplates the introduction of internationally sanctioned certificates attesting that the seed is collected from satisfactory parent trees.

The Commission also approved the report of its subcommission on Mediterranean problems, including the proposed setting up of demonstration areas for the rehabilitation of damaged soils which are so common in the Mediterranean region. In these areas a balancing of the requirements of forestry, agriculture, and pasturage would indicate those land-use programs best adapted to the interests of other local communities.

In preparation for its next session the Commission adopted a list of subjects to which close study would be directed during the ensuing months. It urged member governments to assist by providing details of their own problems and of advances made in solving them. Among the subjects chosen for special consideration were reforestation, control of insect infestations, mechanization of logging operations, and the training of workers.

The Commission spent a day in the commune of Bassins on a field trip arranged by Swiss federal, cantonal, and communal authorities. Members were able to observe at first hand the successful co-ordination of all land uses, including forestry, agriculture, and pasturage, to the benefit of the entire community.

A full report of the session is available on application to FAO.

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