The objectives of the W-BRAINS (Walnut - Basic Research for Agro-forestry and Industry : Network and Standards) programme are to determine criteria of walnut wood quality for commercial application including logs or end-products (furniture) and to increase the production of high-quality wood in Europe using walnut.
Walnut trees (J. nigra, J. regia and their hybrids) produce high quality timber and veneer (100 M3/ha after 50 years, 600 ECU/M3). Well-accepted by farmers, they are ideally suited for use in agriculture reconversion and diversification. Since 1992, an initial AIR project developed collections, genetic studies, plant production methods, cultural models, a first description of walnut woods and a socio-economic study for private landowners. It provided all the basic elements for fully developing an extensive walnut culture in Europe and the background know-how for the present project which is focused upon the walnut wood as end-product.
Five main factors affecting wood quality in walnut have been identified by industry : a) wood density depending
on tree growth; b) wood grain thinness; c) wood defects, especially by local dark necroses. These factors will be simultaneously studied to evaluate the whole walnut wood characteristics in order to be in good accordance with industrial concerns and to find relevant and objective characters of wood quality.
New industrial options have emerged and have been well-defined in Italy by the company Segati Tranciati Industria Meridionale (Nola) : current industrial needs are concerned with the production of homogeneous light-coloured wood, with large growth rings and low density without heartwood for optimising and standardising end-products. This new situation led the 'European walnut group' to develop new strategies in forest arboriculture ('intensive' cultural systems) to be tested in the field and used by farmers and woodworkers. Such systems will be tested using elite clones or progenies planted in rich soil producing exploitable trees within 25-30 years without heartwood.
The workprogramme involves a multi-disciplinary approach in partnership with industry comprising in a pan-European collection of expertise working in the following fields :
- the physiological mechanisms involved in wood formation, including xylem cell differentiation,
heartwood formation, oxidation and polymerisation processes of naphtoquinones, in colouring, in
crown or root impact on wood using up-to-date biochemical and molecular tools (cDNA libraries,
HPLC, ELISA, MS, RMN);
- the specific traits linked to the exceptional quality of the different woods (density, wood grain
thinness, colouring, durability, ability to be worked) by means of anatomical, biochemical and
- new technologies (steaming, drying and colouring) with private companies improving the quality of
the end-product adapted to industrial demand;
- new objective standards for wood commercialisation from scientific and practical criteria used by EC
and wood industry;
- new cultural systems producing high-quality wood in relatively short periods (25-30 years) using rich
soil, elite trees or in vitro clonal plant material, adapted cultural systems;
- breeding programmes in each country to select trees and to keep the highest genetic diversity. Search
molecular markers of polymorphism such as specific wood traits (RFLP and RAPDs);
- setting up a European network of the 'walnut wood chain' involving scientists, nurserymen, farmers
or landowners, wood industry professionals, cabinet-makers and local or national forest advisers, for
education, training, transfer technologies and marketing techniques.
Funding SchemeCSC - Cost-sharing contracts
540 06 Thessaloniki