Some people with whom I’m aquainted, are vainly trying to get funding for a research project. That they may get the funds doesn’t leave the project without vanity. What was agreed to, can easily be perverted; and growers left with just a husk, or a viral project that fills an ecological niche so that no useful project can grow there. I wont give any details of the various funding applications made in that case; however, it could be useful for an historical perspective to put down my version of how the project might’ve proceeded if growers’ needs were put before the security of researchers’ jobs. (more…)
July 4, 2006
July 2, 2006
In the early days of European exploration and settlement of Australia its timber was variously reported “too hard and ponderous for most uses” [James Cook]; “splits and warps” [Arthur Phillip]; “of little use for building either houses or boats” [George Thompson]; “when the gum bled out of the timber it became brittle and fell to pieces”, and ” the worst wood in any country or climate ever produced.” [J White]. Eucalypt wood was used pretty much just for rough slab huts, because the tools on hand weren’t really up to the job of working the hard wood. – The most significant Australian export of the 18th century was 1,8-cineole, or eucalyptus oil.
In the 20th century and on, one of the single largest uses of eucalypt wood in Australia been for pulp -even though the tools and knowledge to process the crop were there, the resourse was undervalued. The majority of eucalypts planted around the world have also been either for pulp or feulwood, ie quick grown high volume low monetary value crops.
In the early 1960s Australian defence scientists finally found a high value use for eucalypt wood in the synthesis of 3,4,5-trimethoxy-phenethylamine or mescaline. Later in that decade, and I hope that it wasn’t influenced by that work, Australian forestry scientists laid out the largest ever long term in-ground trial of Australian hardwoods. In 1998-9 the plug was pulled on the trial and the results were written up by Laurie Cookson in The In-ground Natural Durability of Australian Timbers. A significant finding of the trial was that termite damage only occured on sites where termites were present ( well, I think it’s significant) – and we could say the same about fungi. One could in hindsight say that someone had just spent 30 years learning stuff-all new over and above anecdotal evidence. It’s not quite the case – it was found that the rankings changed for some species depending on the site environment; and it’s this kind of thought provoking science that prods for finding better ways of finding out things. Since then accelerated testing methods have been worked out. What might have taken 30 year or more, can now be done in a matter of weeks by for example introducing bacteria and fungi or insects to the right environment in which to work on the wood. Non-destructive testing of strength of in-ground durability trials has also been developed. And the biology of the building and its site is given more consideration in design specification.
In recent years there has been heightened interest in naturally durable timber due to concerns about the toxicity of timber treatment chemical effects on health and the environment. Eucalypts have been a target for promotion because some have both durability and fast growth. Potential problems arise when enthusiastism obscures fact; when promoters start pushing a species outside of its natural range, or beyond its physiological capabilities;and/or in short rotation crops such as for posts and poles – harvested in as little as 6 to 8 years. Add to these problems the little bit of stretching that’s going on here – with at least one New Zealand promoter labelling a class 3 durable eucalypt ( not to be used in contact with the ground) as class 2 (marginal in ground use). I’m not sure wether we have another snake oil industry here, until I can tell you so.
June 13, 2006
Those doing the work are creatures of evolutionary biology. OK, so you’re a creationist. Get over it, let’s just all go along with these scientists’ preference for evolution and see where it puts them. Below the scientific facade lurks the selfish gene. Charles Darwin’s theory along with subsequent research basically states that the best mate is the one that can afford to spend the most resources on uselessness. Given a disability such as the peacocks’ tail or the Irish elks’ antlers, it is the animal with the biggest appendage, the one that is the biggest drag on resources and a threat to survival, that is the most sexually attractive. When it comes to the sexiest forestry scientist, it is the one with the most useless research project. Add on evolutionary biology’s essential tools of deception and what we used to call psychopathy, and things get real sexy. When a scientist asks for funding for a research project, what are the criteria for judging if it holds value for forestry science, or if it’s just some guy getting his jollies? (more…)
June 5, 2006
A very attractive option for growers is to aim to grow timber crops as fast as is possible: to lessen biological, climatic and financial risk. Historically, forestry has taken the hunter-gatherer approach of an extractive industry; it has dragged its heels on progressing into cropping concepts. Even the most basic task of planting a tree has taken the path of minimal mental input. Species such as Pinus radiata and Pseudotsuga menziesii are relatively easy to establish. Species such as the cypresses can be quite site specific, or even micro-site specific. This post is about spacing regimes for such alternative or less mainstream timber species. (more…)
What choice is there in high quality hardwoods for growing in cool climates?
There is much more choice available from tropical or sub-tropical forests. Some growing a whole lot faster than cool climate trees. The most durable tropical hardwoods typically have much higher durability than cool climate hardwoods when used in identical conditions. Then why try to compete? Is there even any posibility that the economics stack up against cool climate softwoods? (more…)
June 4, 2006
As Sequoia sempervirens, Thuja plicata and similar durable stable lightweight timber markets experience rising demand with tightened availability, small and medium forest growers are showing renewed interest. There is a tendency for promotors and enthusiasts to gloss over, downplay, ignore or dismiss the risks. On optimal sites each single risk may be minimal; but several such risks put together may add up to a loss of several percent of the potential crop, or potential profit. On a less than optimal site trying to grow Sequoia may be a liability. Of 10,000 acres of Sequoia planted in New Zealand around 1% established. This post touches on the problems that I’ve personally come across, and my own photos illustrate the points. (more…)
May 11, 2006
Approaches to forestry, Solid timber production (growing), Continuing education, and Accessability are included so far in this list. Species groups include Cypresses, mainly Cupressus and Sequoia; and deciduous hardwoods. The list covers what any particular species is, how it lives, how it gets along with others; the people who use forest products, and what they’re expecting; and how growers can look after their forest well to match the needs of all. Although still in construction phase, the present state of the list should give some idea of its potential and where it’s headed. Further information is on the About page, and on the list itself.
April 23, 2006
April 14, 2006
Posted hardwood page April 10. Changed presentation. Had a few presentation issues sorted. I am working on a couple of postings, one on cool climate hardwoods and another on cypress economics. but need to do a bit more work to make sure what I post makes sense.
March 7, 2006
When Cupressus macrocarpa was first introduced into New Zealand it was used extensively in farm shelterbelts. Despite the lack of silvaculture, these belts produces good amounts of clear timber, even from the top logs. As high quality indigenous
timber resources progressively became depleted or locked up in nature reserves, more interest was given to growing plantations of fast growing exotics, such as macrocarpa, to replace indigenous species in the timber market. While untended shelterbelts could readily produce a relatively high percentage of clear timber, purpose planted plantations present a their own set of problems.