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The World of Forestry


Wood chemical future brighter
Selling wood to the Near East
Sahel forestry bibliography
Horses return to work in Canada
Looking at hill country
Latin American-Caribbean data bank
Learning from a lumber spill
Pakistan plants poplars
Polish forestry report
Eucalyptus pulp mill study in the Congo
Forest research in south-central Brazil
Fuelwood use increased in US
Computer system for agroforestry

Wood chemical future brighter

The potential of trees for application in energy and chemistry seems to increase almost daily as new research evidence accumulates and as the need to develop renewable energy alternatives grows more compelling. A recent conference on Biomass substitutes for liquid fuels held in Campinas, Brazil, 9-12 February 1982, brought this point home even more forcefully than before.

The problem has always been economic, especially as it relates to the small landowner, who normally can receive a better return from annual agricultural crops than from trees. That situation has now begun to change, according to Philip H. Abelson in an editorial in Science magazine (Vol. 215, No. 4538, 12 March 1982, p. 1349).

In some areas, such as the Pacific Northwest in the US, hilly forest land can naturally produce a better economic return per hectare than can agricultural crops, In other areas, new forest management practices and better genetic selection can yield higher per-hectare outputs and turn the economic advantage away from annual agricultural crops toward trees.

Abelson cites two examples. One is from South Carolina, where before 1960 the average annual growth of loblolly pine had been three dry tonnes per hectare. That has already been increased to 11 tonnes/ha, and yields of 18-30 tonnes/ha are foreseen in the future. In Brazil, one eucalyptus species with a seven-year growth cycle occupying 40000 ha originally had a yield of 23 tonnes/ha. Genetic selection boosted production in the second rotation to 33 tonnes/ha and to 40 tonnes/ha in the third.

Although demands on wood for fuel will increase its economic importance and help boost its market value in the long run, a more significant factor could be better exploitation of wood chemicals.

Organically, wood consists of about 50 percent cellulose, 20 percent hemicellulose and 30 percent lignin. The problem has always been in separating these components to make them available for other uses. One relatively new method now in use, Abelson says, is solvent extraction of lignin followed by removal of the hemicellulose from the cellulose. A second method involves brief steam exposure followed by "explosive decompression" and removal of lignin by dilute alkali.

As an adhesive, lignin currently sells for US$400/tonne. It has other applications as a filter in plastics and after pyrolysation, it can be used to form a superior metallurgical coke. Cellulose can be used directly as cattle feed or converted to glucose by acid hydrolysis or by use of an enzyme. Future prospects for wood-derived glucose are therefore excellent. Uses for glucose include food, a carbon source for microbial formation of protein, or as feedstock for liquid fuels, chemicals and pharmaceuticals.

"For a brief period of human history," Abelson writes, "oil dominated the energy and chemical scene. Wood is in the process of resuming its ancient central role, but on a broader scale as science and technology point the way to more effective production and use."

Selling wood to the Near East

By 1982, the construction boom in the Near East was over, but a decline had not begun. Rather, construction activity levelled off at a very high plateau. This was the conclusion of research conducted by the International Trade Centre UNCTAD/GATT in Geneva and published in its magazine International Trade Forum (Vol. XVIII, No. 1/1982 January-March).

Sales of wood-based building materials reached US$1 thousand million in seven major markets (Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Egypt, United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Jordan. Oman), and were expected to hold steady. These markets have traditionally been oriented toward softwoods rather than hardwoods, and should continue to remain so for some time. Similarly, the two-thirds market share represented by sawn timber and plywood in wood-based building materials is likely to hold firm.

The reason is that Near Eastern markets are, by tradition, conservative. They have been slow to accept such new building materials as chipboard or fibreboard, or to see any use for hardwood beyond joinery and furniture. A gradual process of education is needed to change this pattern, according to the International Trade Centre (ITC).

The ITC forecasts that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is likely to retain its position as largest importer of wood-based building materials in the Near East. The best growth potential is in Egypt and Iraq, with Egypt the more important of the two since it has to meet the needs of an ever growing population. In Kuwait. Jordan, Oman and the United Arab Emirates, wood demand has peaked and could even begin a slight decline.

While European suppliers have dominated Near Eastern wood markets in recent years, newer countries, particularly Chile and New Zealand, have begun to make inroads. There is now an opportunity, the ITC feels, for Asian countries to make some progress as well.

Most of the sawn timber purchased in the Near East is rough, ungraded construction timber. Few buyers demand seasoned or treated wood. Meranti, Keruing and Kapur are the most popular hardwoods for sawn timber, and pine and spruce species among the softwoods. The furniture market is growing rapidly, with teak and African mahogany (Sapele) currently most popular.

Most plywood used in the Near East consists of standard interior plywood made of lauan or similar Asian hardwoods. As knowledge of the products available increases, other kinds of plywood - veneer or plastic overlay, blackboard, chipboard, fibre building board - are likely to increase in popularity.

Veneers, both rotary cut and sliced, of lauan and similar species will increasingly be in demand by Egyptian plywood factories, according to ITC. Decorative veneers of teak, rosewood and mahogany, particularly for lacquered doors, will find buyers in Egypt, Jordan, Iraq and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Most doors for the Near East are hollow-core, flush doors for interior use, and these have been traditionally purchased from large, automated producers in Europe, the United States, Taiwan Province (China) and the Republic of Korea. A small market for flooring is developing in Egypt.

PLANTING GAO TREES IN THE NIGER - afforestation speeds Sahelian agricultural recovery

Sahel forestry bibliography

A two-part bibliography on forestry in Mauritania, Senegal, the Gambia, Mali, the Upper Volta, the Niger, Chad, Nigeria and the Sudan entitled "Forestry in the Sahel" has appeared in A current bibliography on African affairs. Each part contains some 250 references obtained from indices, abstracts and data bases. The bibliography is intended to assist persons working in forestry along the southern fringe of the Sahara. It should also prove useful to those involved in economics, agriculture, soil conservation, land-use planning and rural development in the Sahel. For further information, contact: African Bibliographic Center, 1346 Connecticut Ave. NW, Washington, D.C., USA.

PARCHED LAND IN THE SAHEL - after five years of subnormal rainfall

Horses return to work in Canada

With concern growing over energy costs and pollution, the use of draught horses in Canada is showing what could be the beginning of a modest come-back, according to an article in the Toronto Globe and Mail. In the western part of the country, horses are being purchased for logging uses as well as for farm work. It is estimated that there are currently 300000 work-horses in Canada - one to every 80 inhabitants. Sixty - years ago there was one to every 2.5 people.

Looking at hill country

Foothills for food and forests is the theme of an international symposium to be held at Oregon State University in the United States, from 25-28 April 1983. A group of outstanding speakers from around the world will consider integrated agriculture and forestry practices in improving the productive capacity of the world's vast hill land areas. The main speakers will be resource economist Marion Clawson of Resources for the Future and range ecologist Frederick Hall of the US Forest Service. A poster session will allow opportunity for short paper contributions on relevant topics. Tours arc planned to adjacent agroforestry development areas. For further information, contact: Dr John Beuter, Department of Forest Management, Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR 97331, USA.

Latin American-Caribbean data bank

Tropical forestry data for Latin American and Caribbean countries can be found in Agrinter, a data bank system for agricultural information exchange. Information is available on agricultural sciences, soils, meteorology, ecology, forest production, forest management, forest utilization, aquatic systems, natural resources and pollution. Data, prepared by the Centro Inter-americano de Documentación Agrícolas (CIDIA) in Costa Rica, are obtained from a network of 120 institutions in 19 countries.

Agrinter provides bibliography, research on current information, statistics and a selective distribution of information and referrals. The central data bank includes references to 70000 documents and is increasing at a rate of 15000 annually.

For further information, contact: CIDIA, Apartado 10281, San Jose, Costa Rica.

A PLANTATION OF 7-YEAR-OLD POPLARS AT CHANGA MANGA - helping to achieve self-sufficiency in wood

Learning from a lumber spill

A large spill of lumber off the central California coast has given researchers from the US Fish and Wildlife Service new insights into how to protect the threatened sea otter (Enhydra lutris nereis, Merriam) from oil-spills. Under US regulations this sea otter has been classified as "threatened" because it is liable to extinction in the event of a major oil-spill. However, until now, little was known about how such a spill might be dispersed.

On 12 February 1978, a barge under tow in heavy weather 40 km west of Point Sur spilled, releasing a load of 2-million board feet of finished timber. A study of the way the lumber was transported by ocean currents after the spill (Science, Vol. 215, No. 4539, 19 March 1982, p. 1503-1504) has provided useful information into what might happen after an oil-spill and how best to control it.

Pakistan plants poplars

Pakistan's Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Cooperatives, Forestry Sector, has published a 20-page manual entitled Planting of poplars in Pakistan, written by Mahmood Iqbal Sheikk. Since indigenous trees in Pakistan tend to be slow-growing, making the country dependent upon wood imports, the author proposes the planting of certain fast-growing clones of Populus sur-americana and P. deltoides under intensive agroforestry as a means of helping to achieve self-sufficiency in wood. The manual discusses soil selection, nursery practice with cuttings, planting methods, and plantation management.

Polish forestry report

The effects of economic crisis, unprecedented hurricane damage in 1981 and increasingly widespread forestry damage by the nun moth are the major elements in Poland's forestry picture over the past three years, according to a report submitted by Poland to the FAO Forestry Commission for Europe in 1982.

The outbreak the nun moth (Lymantria monacha) began in 1978 in Scotch pine and mixed Scotch pine Norway spruce forests in northern Poland. Chemical controls-primarily such imported chlorinated hydrocarbon insecticides as Ambush, Decis and Ripcord as well as some biopreparations-were used on 180000 ha in 1979. The number of hectares treated expanded to 510000 ha in 1980 and to 1.74 million in 1981, a figure that represents 20 percent of all forest land in Poland. More hectares were sprayed in 1981 than in all the previous 35 postwar years combined. The spraying programme is expected to increase even more in 1982, with more than 2 million ha, or 25 percent of Poland's forests, scheduled for treatment.

The calamitous 1981 hurricane occurred in northern Poland in the same general area where the nun moth infestation began. More than 8 million cubic metres of wood were blown down or severely damaged. Forest authorities feel that a large quantity of this wood will not be removed in time to prevent it from being destroyed by secondary pests.

On the positive side, Poland established Gorzów National Park in 1981 as its 15th national park, and also expanded the size of some existing parks. The total number of hectares now protected by national park status in Poland is 140000. In 1980 a new, comprehensive environmental law was passed calling for, among other things, rational management of such natural resources as forests.

Organizational changes and administrative decentralization are among the changes being considered for the forestry sector under Poland's general economic reform. In the self-financing State Forest system, the number of workers declined 3-7 percent on average annually over the past 10 years, bringing the total down to 97800 workers in 1980 as compared to 131100 in 1970. In 1980, only 57000 workers, or 58 percent of the total number of workers, held regular jobs. The worker decline was not attributable to increased mechanization, with the result that overall productivity fell and all forestry activities declined. To encourage workers back into the field, a 25 percent pay rise was instituted in 1981.

In the private forest sector, the goal of the Polish Government is to afforest barren lands and to raise the productivity of small forests. Among the free services and supplies provided by the state to private owners are forest management plans, trees for afforestation, pest control, tool leasing and soil preparation.

Eucalyptus pulp mill study in the Congo

The Swedish firm Billerud has won a contract from Société d'études de la cellulose du Congo (SECC) to conduct a year-long feasibility study on the possibility of constructing a eucalyptus-based pulp mill at the Congo deep-water port of Pointe Noire on the South Atlantic. SECC is a consortium that includes the Congolese Government, the French oil company Elf Aquitaine, Les silos du sud guest, the World Bank's International Finance Corporation (IFC), the European Investment Bank and Billerud itself.

The mill, with a capacity yet to be determined, would made bleached market pulp for paper mills. Billerud operates the Aracruz pulp mill in Portugal, the world's largest eucalyptus-based mill.

Forest research in south-central Brazil

EMBRAPA, the Brazilian national agricultural corporation, in conjunction with the Brazilian Institute for Forest Development (IBDF) and the National Programme of Forest Research (PNPF) directs a South-Central Forest Research Station at Colombo, Paraná. The programme concentrates research in nine states: Bahía, Minas Gerais, Mato Grosso do Sul, Espiritu Santo, Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo, Santa Catarina and Rio Grande do Sul.

Research, performed in cooperation with universities, other research institutions and private companies is conducted by a team of 14 forest scientists. Currently the programme supports 15 projects, including:

· Adaptability of broad-leaf and coniferous tree species to the region;
· Genetic resource conservation and tree improvement;
· Propagation techniques;
· Energy plantations;
· Restoration of exhausted soils.

For further information, contact: URPFCS/EMBRAPA, P.O. Box 3319, Curitiba, P.R. 80000, Brazil.

Fuelwood use increased in US

The US Department of Energy's first major study of wood energy consumption shows that the number of households in the United States using firewood as the main heating fuel has more than doubled within the last two years. A related report indicates 5.5 percent of the nation's homes use wood as their primary heat source. Total US wood consumption for energy has increased 56 percent since 1970.

Computer system for agroforestry

A new Australian computer system, developed to analyse the economic potential of agroforestry projects, is being tested in Kenya. The system will be installed in Nairobi by a team from the Australian National University under a joint project undertaken by the University and the International Council for Research in Agroforestry.

The computer package, called MULBUD (multi-crop, multi-period budgeting), operates on a microcomputer which folds up like a portable sewing machine. This ease of transportation makes it particularly suitable for work in developing countries. Funding is through a grant from the International Development and Research Centre of Canada.

From Science Newsletter, Australian
Information Services, Vol. 9, No. 8, p. 19.


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