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SCU project aims to boost timber quality


2 February 2004
Nearly 200 eucalypt logs, all about two-metres long, will be tested at Southern Cross University (SCU) over the next three weeks as part of a joint project to improve the quality of wood in State Forests plantations.

The School of Environmental Science and Management Chair of Forestry, Professor Jerry Vanclay, said Dunn’s white gum (Eucalypt dunnii) was now one of the main species being used in State Forest plantations, but little was known about the quality of the wood.

Professor Vanclay said the trees grew particularly well, but not much was known about its potential uses or the best way to saw the wood.

“A small amount of Dunn’s white gum has been harvested from the natural forests in the past, but sawmills have no experience with the new plantation-grown resource,” Professor Vanclay said.

The project involves collaboration between State Forests, Southern Cross University, and University of Canterbury in New Zealand, and aims to select strains of Dunn’s white gum well suited to the local plantation industry.

“What we are particularly looking at is getting information about the trees so we can weed out the trees that will not be suitable for the plantations.”

According to Professor Vanclay one of the main problems with Eucalypts is that wood from the teenage trees (between 10 and 20 years) can split in the production process.

“Eucalypts have special properties and the growth stress in teenage trees can cause problems. If you saw one of those trees the wood wants to split and it can spring up. Once the tree gets to about 40-years-old the wood is pretty normal.

“But, to get a reasonable return on investment, growers want to harvest trees sooner, perhaps at around 20 years. We are trying to develop the technology to foster an efficient plantation industry.”

The trees being used for the project have come from a State Forests plantation at Boambee, south of Coffs Harbour. The trees are grown from seed and the plantation needed to be thinned out, providing the opportunity to use the timber for testing.

The tests are being done over the next three weeks at SCU’s Lismore campus and the results will be finalised by June.

Testing the wood are (front) Dr Shakti Chauhan, a researcher from the School of Forestry at the University of Canterbury in Christchurch, NZ; with (rear left to right) Martin Davies, research assistant at SCU; William Joe, a Research Officer with State Forests of NSW in Sydney; and Paul Fuller, Technical Manager in the University of Canterbury's School of Forestry.

Media contact: Brigid Veale, SCU Media Liaison, 66593006 or m. 0439 680 748.