FPL Partner WholeTrees Wins Business Concept Challenge: Concept helps create new markets for small-diameter logs from forest restoration

Long-time Forest Products Laboratory (FPL) partner WholeTrees Architecture and Structures was named the winner of the 2015 Barrett Foundation Business Concept Challenge by the National Forest Foundation and awarded a $75,000 prize. This unique business plan competition awards the best entrepreneurial approaches that address the challenges facing America’s 193-million-acre National Forest System.

festivalfoods

Whole Trees installed support beams and trusses in a Festival Foods grocery store under construction in Madison, Wisconsin.

“It’s an honor to have our company recognized by a business luminary like Dr. Barrett,” says WholeTrees co-founder Amelia Baxter.  “We provide an incentive for healthy forest management by taking what would otherwise be forest waste and transforming it into a highly valued construction material.  It’s a delight to see this approach honored on a national stage.”

WholeTrees applies 21st Century tools and know-how to the task of designing, engineering and manufacturing innovative round timber structural systems for commercial and residential buildings. By using cutting edge fastening techniques and patented technologies, WholeTrees allows builders to use entire small-diameter trees as a cost-effective, sustainable replacement for steel and milled lumber in numerous building applications.

Small-diameter trees are a low-value by-product of forest management and developing markets for this by-product has been a challenge for land managers and businesses. WholeTrees advances the use of these products and creates a market for this material, while creating local jobs, improving forest management and storing carbon.

First runner-up and winner of $25,000, Klickitat Community Forest Products, is building a new model for processing small-diameter timber that produces efficiencies and results in increased profits and restoration of National Forests. Using high-efficiency, low-impact, cut-to-length logging systems, logs are merchandised in the field and delivered, unsorted, to Klickitat’s transportable manufacturing facility at a central location. Logs are then graded for four end products: variable-width pine and fir flooring, 1-2” non-graded S4S lumber, bundled and bulk firewood, and fence posts and agricultural poles.

By vertically and horizontally integrating lumber operations and capitalizing on efficiencies gained through this integration, Klickitat Community Forest Products will improve the end market for small-diameter timber, providing a critical incentive for increased forest restoration.

“Both teams demonstrate a unique approach to removing a major barrier preventing more restoration work on our National Forests” says Leslie Weldon, Deputy Chief of the National Forest System. “By creating markets for small diameter trees, the winning teams help create new opportunities for the Forest Service to achieve healthier forests and stimulate local economies. These are exactly the types of ideas we need to be nurturing across the country.”

Brashaw Takes the Helm of Forest Products Marketing Unit

The Forest Products Laboratory (FPL) welcomes Brian Brashaw to the position of Program Manager for the Forest Products Marketing Unit (FPMU). He took the helm in early May.

Brashaw comes to the Forest Service from the University of Minnesota Duluth’s Natural Resources Research Institute (NRRI), where he served as Program Manager. In that role, he led a highly successful technology development and transfer group that helped a wide range of wood products businesses in the states of Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan.

Through the NRRI, Brashaw has had a long, productive relationship with the Forest Products Laboratory in the areas of nondestructive evaluation of wood materials, utilization of urban wood waste, and timber bridges. Brashaw has a BS in Forest Management from UW-Stevens Point, a MS in Materials Science from Washington State University, and a PhD in Forest Resources from Mississippi State University. His educational and career path were established living in Wisconsin’s Nicolet National Forest as a youth with goals in forestry and forest products.

“Under Brian’s leadership, the FPMU will help ensure healthy, sustainable forests that are more resilient to disturbances by creating high-value, high-volume markets from woody biomass,” said Michael T. Rains, Director of the Forest Products Laboratory and Northern Research Station.

Since 1996, the FPMU has maintained a strong partnership with State and Private Forestry and other mission areas of the Forest Service. With its emphasis on technology transfer, the FPMU helps accelerate forest restoration, improve economic conditions, expand wood utilization and marketing opportunities, improve economic conditions, and create new jobs.

Forest biomass cleanup

Forest biomass cleanup

“It has been a dream of mine, growing up in the north woods of Wisconsin, to have the opportunity to work with the U.S. Forest Service.  It is an honor to be a part of this great organization,” said Brashaw.

FPL is excited to have such a qualified and enthusiastic leader on board.

 

Guardrail Post Possibilites: A New Use for Forest Thinnings?

Small-diameter trees can be used for a variety of products, including lumber, structural round wood, wood composites, wood fiber products, compost, mulch, energy, and fuels.

Developing even more uses for small-diameter trees would increase their product potential, encouraging thinning projects that remove trees from overcrowded forests, thereby improving forest health and decreasing the risk of catastrophic wildfires.

Rigid nose steel-framed test vehicle for guardrail post tests.

Rigid nose steel-framed test vehicle for guardrail post tests.

In response to this need, Forest Products Laboratory researchers and their partners at the Midwest Roadside Safety Facility at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln are studying using small-diameter wood for highway guardrail posts.

Currently in phase two, the study has already determined appropriate sizes of southern yellow pine, Douglas-fir, and ponderosa pine round posts for use in the 31-inch-tall Midwest Guardrail System. Now researchers are looking to continue to expand opportunities for using round ponderosa pine in guardrail systems as a substitute for the rectangular southern yellow pine posts commonly used.

The Midwest Roadside Safety Facility will conduct low-speed, dynamic component tests on nine round ponderosa pine posts and three rectangular southern yellow pine posts set in a compacted, crushed limestone soil material. Each test will be performed at a speed of 15-20 miles per hour using a rigid nose, steel-framed reusable test vehicle.

Results of this research program are expected to provide test results that allow round ponderosa pine posts to be substituted into existing U.S. highway guardrail systems.

Further information is available in this Research in Progress report.

Example of dynamically tested ponderosa pine post.

Example of dynamically tested ponderosa pine post.

The Many Products from Trees

The late John W. Koning Jr. was a much-beloved person at FPL. He joined the staff at the Forest Products Laboratory in 1961 and conducted research in paperboard packaging. Following retirement in 1986, he joined the Engineering Professional Development Department in the College of Engineering at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and worked with industry in developing educational courses. He published articles on a range of subjects including research management and corrugated containers.

Koning’s greatest publishing accomplishment may have been the massive book that he compiled and edited: Forest Products Laboratory, 1910-2010: Celebrating a Century of Accomplishments.

what-trees-can-be-turned-into

One tree can yield countless products.

In that book, Koning reminds readers that while we all celebrate the beauty of forests and their value for recreation, forests also provide wood that is used in thousands of products ranging from components of housing to paper to chemicals. Speaking about the Forest Service in 1998, then Chief Mike Dombeck stressed, “The basic point of our sustainable forest management strategy is this: not only do economic stability and environmental protection go hand in hand, economic prosperity cannot occur without healthy, diverse, and productive watersheds and ecosystems.”

The public’s 193 million acres of National Forests and Grasslands are now recognized for their multiple uses and are under management to continuously provide a broad array of benefits:

  • Clean air and water
  • Natural flood control
  • Timber, forage, and non-wood products
  • Wildlife habitat
  • Endangered species recovery
  • Scenic beauty
  • Recreational opportunities
  • Food
  • Community revitalization
  • Improved human health
  • Carbon sequestration

Spectroscopy Research Challenges a Deadly Tree Fungus

Loblolly pine ranges from Georgia and the Carolinas to Texas but a destructive fungus is threatening this common southern softwood. Fusiform rust, Cronartium quercuum f.sp. fusiforme, is one the most destructive forest diseases in the South. With its complex life cycle, this fungus infects both loblolly and slash pine causing canker formation that frequently kills the infected branch.

The pine infection cycle occurs in Georgia in April and early May. Elongated swelling of the branches is the result of individual attacks on different parts of a tree. Many of the infected trees are unsuitable for later use as forest products, causing millions of dollars to be lost annually. Trees with large galls on the main stem are also unsuitable for many products.

Most of the photos in the above slideshow are by Robert L. Anderson, US Forest Service.

Changes in wood chemistry resulting from fungal decay of Scots pine have been studied directly using spectroscopy, the study of interactions between matter and radiated energy. A 2003 study by Pandey and Pitman exposed Scots pine sapwood to brown rot, selective white rot, and nonselective white rot fungi. In this study, the decay process was followed using Fourier Transform Infrared Spectroscopy (FTIR). After 12 weeks, the wood exposed to the brown rot fungus resulted in progressive increase in lignin content relative to cellulose and hemicellulose, whereas the lignin content of the wood exposed to the selective white rot decreased as decay proceeded. For the wood exposed to the nonselective white rot wood, both occurred.

A recently published FPL study applied both FTIR spectroscopy and Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy (NMR) to determine whether the pathogen caused any structural modifications to the chemical composition of lignin. A new FPL paper, Effect of Fusiform Rust (Cronartium quurcum f.sp. fusiforme) on the Composition of Loblolly Pine Lignin by Roderquita K. Moore, Allisha N. Blood, and Cherrelle I. Esekie discusses the results.