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Wood phenotyping tools: properties, functions and quality

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - TOPWOOD (Wood phenotyping tools: properties, functions and quality)

Reporting period: 2017-04-01 to 2019-03-31

Wood basic properties are key-traits in many forest and wood studies. Wood serves three main functions in trees: conduction of water from the roots to the leaves, mechanical support of the plant and storage of biochemicals. Knowledge of basic wood properties is essential in many forest research disciplines, from basic to applied studies. Wood is extensively used for many purposes in building, furniture, paper and cardboard, chemistry, fuel wood and many other important or marginal uses. Basic wood properties strongly influence the quality of all these products. Early knowledge of wood quality is important at all stages of forest research, forest management, logging and wood transformation. However, at the same time, measurement of basic wood properties is often tedious, time consuming and expensive. Hence, there is no doubt that more efficient, less time consuming, less expensive tools are useful for many actors of the forest research and of the forest and wood chain, from the forest to the wood industry. TOPWOOD’s objective is to contribute to the development of several key tools that will help public research laboratories and private companies involved in wood studies to increase their scientific efficiency and their profitability. The specific objective of TOPWOOD is to test and develop medium and high-throughput phenotyping measurement and analysis tools for selected basic wood properties in the laboratory and in the field. The phenotyping tools and methods of analysis developed and improved in TOPWOOD are intended to be used by the participants to investigate the genetic and environmental determinism of key wood properties involved in forest tree adaptation, as well as in wood production and wood quality for the forest and wood industries.
The objectives were to test and develop medium and high-throughput phenotyping measurement and analysis tools for basic wood properties. WP1 was dedicated to the measurement of wood properties involved in quality. WP2 aimed at studying and developing devices for functional traits. WP3 targeted the development, discussion and dissemination of analysis methods dedicated to the large and complex datasets. Finally, WP4 was dedicated to the coordination.
WP1 contributed to make TOPWOOD a leading international group in high-throughput phenotyping of wood properties. We developed several NIRS models for mechanical wood properties, wood density and vulnerability to cavitation.
The comparison of X-ray and high frequency microdensity demonstrated that the key-point was the surface preparation of the samples. HF frequency microdensity proves to be a useful alternative to X-ray microdensity for specific samples.
The study of ultrasonic methods for standing tree measurement established that it was possible to capture mechanical wood properties in standing trees, and that this data could be used in models to improve profitability of forest production.
Five different methods of vulnerability to cavitation were tested in three project laboratories. The Embolitron, an original device developed in collaboration between INTA and INRA, was tested in two versions and was compared with a reference method, the Cavitron. Measuring vulnerability to cavitation on standing trees is a big challenge that we took up with three different methods. We developed NIRS calibrations for vulnerability to cavitation, with promising results.
TOPWOOD contributed to a wider international trial of automatic point dendrometers. The results demonstrate that the association of intra-annual radial growth curves and tree-ring microdensity profiles is a powerful and promising tool to estimate the individual tree response to climate variation. Another success of WP2 was its capacity to attract renowned scientists in the fields of forest ecophysiology of resistance to drought and of dendroecological studies of wood formation.
WP3 gathered, shared, processed, analyzed and exploited data. We addressed the question “how to maintain the efficiency and the profitability of the wood production system in front of the global changes”. There exist, at least in the study cases, some trade-offs between technological wood properties and xylem hydraulic properties, allowing the production of wood with desirable technological characteristics and a potential for adaptation to drought.
WP3 dedicated a lot of activities and efforts to the analysis of the benefit for the wood industry of early assessment of standing tree wood quality. Models were presented in different technology transfer meetings and workshops to players of the forest and wood industry. WP3 developed strong interactions between the project partners and the forest stakeholders of France, Spain and Argentina.
Topwood investigated adaptive mechanisms and their application to forest tree breeding, forest management and wood production and was involved in the mitigation of the unfavourable effects of the climate change.
TOPWOOD organized the International Conference “Adapting forests ecosystems and wood products to biotic and abiotic stress: Integrating tools, methods and disciplines to face global change” at Bariloche, Argentina, from the 12 to 15 March 2019 with scientists from nine countries for the very first time in South America on this topic.
A remarkable long-term collaboration originated from TOPWOOD: the official creation of the International Associated Laboratory FORESTIA, between INRA in France and INTA in Argentina. TOPWOOD is the heart of a virtual international network with partners from 10 countries.
TOPWOOD enhanced innovation capacity: develop, test, and validate tools for wood studies of forest tree adaptation to climate and early assessment of wood basic properties. New prospects are fast and relatively cheap tools for rapid assessment of forest vulnerability to stressors. In a longer-term perspective, there is a potential to develop a commercial version of this tool based on portable NIRS device.
One objective of the early study of wood basic properties was to better associate the wood resource with the market needs. One good example in this field is the case of Pinus ponderosa in Argentina. Early measurement demonstrated that the wood that was considered as too low quality wood so far could in fact be used in construction.
TOPWOOD directly contributed to competitiveness and growth of Madera Plus Company. It released critical information to a large number of forest and wood companies in Europe and in Argentina, giving them the opportunity to learn about innovative tools aiming at improving the profitability of the forest-wood chain.
TOPWOOD directly addressed issues related to climate change and the environment, forest adaptation to climate change and to the increase of the drought stress associated to the global warming.
TOPWOOD addressed industrial and societal needs at regional level through the issue of the availability and the quality of the wood resource at different levels. The objective is to provide societies with the right quantity and quality of wood for the different end-uses, in the climate change context, with improved profitability for the forest wood chain.
TOPWOOD was not only dedicated to applied research and innovation, but to the production of new basic, fundamental knowledge about the natural mechanisms of adaptation of forest tree species to new stressing conditions.
Topwood seconded staff at the first Topwood meeting at Tandil, Argentina
INRA (France) Topwood seconded staff at INTA, Bariloche, Argentina
MADERA PLUS (Spain) seconded staff measuring ultrasonics at INTA (Argentina)
INRA (France) seconded staff working on vulnerability to cavitation at Tandil, Argentina
INTA (Argentina) seconded staff at INRA (France), working on microdensity
INTA (Argentina) and MADERA PLUS (Spain) seconded staff at BOKU (Austria), working on vulnerability
Some participants of the Topwood Bariloche International Conference, March 2019