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CRC for Forestry News 11 - High-tech training offered to CRC partners

The CRC for Forestry is offering training in portable near-infrared (NIR) scanning to industry partners to help forest managers gather information about the likely commercial value of a tree.

NIR has been used for some time in agricultural and pharmaceutical industries, but has only recently been adapted for field use in the forest industry.

CRC for Forestry researcher Dr Geoff Downes and his colleagues have conducted extensive tests

Geoff Downes_CarrajungDr Geoff Downes using the hand-held NIR device, the Polychromix PhazirTM

using commercially available hand-held NIR devices, such as the Polychromix PhazirTM, with assistance from industry partners. They have developed calibrations that allow measurement of commercially important wood properties such as cellulose content, Kraft pulp yield and basic density in standing trees cheaply, quickly and using small samples that minimise damage to living trees.

Traditionally, analysis of properties such as pulp yield involves expensive and time-consuming laboratory testing. Analysing pulp yield in a lab costs around $1000 per sample and requires five kilograms of dry woodchips. Using near-infrared scanning (NIR), it costs as little as $2.50 and uses small samples extracted from standing trees.

The technology can help forest growers to select the best genotypes for breeding, and to evaluate their forests where they stand to manage the wood to meet customer specifications.

“Increasing Kraft pulp yield by an average one per cent, in a mill processing four million green tonnes of woodchips per year, represents more than $15 million of extra pulp at current prices,” Dr Downes said.

“This increase could be achieved through breeding and management.”

Dr Downes said the benefits of NIR can be further enhanced by developing calibrations to measure wood density, moisture content, stiffness and other valuable wood properties.

Dr Downes this month conducted the CRC’s first training workshop on portable NIR at Traralgon in Victoria, providing various staff from CRC member organisations with an overview of the use of NIR in general, and the PhazirTM in particular. Participants were also given a demonstration of the technology in action, as the PhazirTM was used to collect drill frass samples to obtain predictions of pulp yield, cellulose content and basic density.

Staff from Hancock Victorian Plantations are evaluating the use of the PhazirTM for tree assessment within their breeding program.

Further workshops are available upon request, and the CRC is also offering one-on-one training to industry partners.  For further information, contact Geoff Downes.