Forestry and Forest Products Research Centre
 
 

Eucalypts Research Co-operative

The goal of the Eucalypts Research Co-operative is to support more effective integration of grower and processor operations, from the plantation to the processing plant and thereby maximise the value potential of the South African forestry resource. More specifically, the goal is to leverage the research and development resources required to support the pulp and paper companies in their management of variation of the timber resource entering the mill.

Background

The South African forestry and forest products industry (particularly the pulp and paper companies) competes in a global market and contributes significantly to South Africa's exports. Competition on world markets is becoming increasingly fierce with international companies moving rapidly towards large scale, high technology production. Parallel with increasing economies of scale, there is an international trend towards better understanding and improvement of the quality of the resource and the development of information systems to use this knowledge to enhance competitive advantage.

The above mentioned international pressures combined with local shortages of land available for increased afforestation mean that maximum material beneficiation and the use of appropriate information systems for decision support are critical to the sustainability of the South African industry.

Producing a consistent, high quality product is a key issue for global competitiveness of the forestry and forest products industry. The primary constraint in achieving this in the short to medium term lies in the variability of the quality of the timber resource. An important characteristic of South African forestry holdings lies in the wide range of site types and species planted. This, results in a resource of varying quality and value. Pulp mills often receive a wide variety of fibre types in terms of basic density, wood age, and from a variety of geographic locations. The quality of the raw material delivered to the pulp mills has a major effect on the productivity and efficiency of a mill. Better, more rapid screening techniques, an effective fibre management system and the infrastructure to ensure its implementation are therefore essential for improving mill productivity.

The current proposal focusses on providing sufficient resources over a three year period to support Mondi and Sappi in addressing the above issues through research to address two closely related initiatives. The first involves evaluating the impact of environment, species/genotype, management regime and tree age upon the wood, pulp and pulping properties of plantation grown eucalypts. The second initiative involves the evaluation of potential rapid screening and early prediction techniques. The knowledge and techniques developed will focus on forest management, tree breeding and pulp wood processing strategies.

Objectives

Through a process of consensus building between Mondi, Sappi and CSIR the following specific objectives have been identified:

  • To improve our understanding of basic factors impacting on wood qualities that could be used to predict and screen wood, pulp, and pulping properties as well as to grade pulpwood, through:
  • investigating the impact of environment, age, genotype and management regime on specified wood, pulp, and pulping properties;
  • developing suitable sampling methodology and sample size to apply in commercial enumeration of stands;
  • developing early prediction tools for breeding selection;
  • identifying major sources of variation and how to control them.