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A "green" goal: sustainable production of higher value raw materials: intensive forest management and well-focused forestry research can dramatically increase the value of our industry's raw materials.

Editor's note: This article is part of a continuing series of reports from the Forest, Wood and Paper Industry Technology Summit, held in May 2001 in Peachtree City, Georgia, USA. The Technology Summit was sponsored by TAPPI, AF&PA and the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Industrial Technology.

Forest-based manufacturing industries need world-class raw materials to remain competitive in global markets. In the United States, domestic plantations and other intensively managed forests will play critical roles by producing high-value wood with superior properties that meet the needs of manufacturers and their customers. The industry must harness advances in biological sciences, information technologies, and systems engineering to improve wood quality and reduce production costs. Economically attractive improvements in wood quality will enable downstream improvements in product quality, reductions ill energy and chemical use in manufacturing, and innovations in both manufacturing processes and new product development.


Agenda 2020 plays an important and unique role in U.S. forestry by focusing on the research needed to achieve substantial and sustainable forest productivity improvements. Potential benefits to the nation from this research include:

* higher-value supplies of renewable energy and materials,

* stronger technology foundation for long-term bioenergy strategies,

* enhanced competitiveness of an important manufacturing industry that provides good jobs and incentives for sustainable forest management, and

* more efficient and effective use of all the nation's forests for the wide variety of products and services demanded by society.

The Agenda 2020 program on Sustainable Forest Productivity is an industry-led partnership with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Industrial Technology and the USDA Forest Service Research and Development organization. Agenda 2020 has supported more than 30 forestry projects since the mid-1990s. Most have been successful and several have made very significant contributions to advancing the science and technology of forest management. Few--if any--of these projects would have been funded adequately or at all without Agenda 2020.

At the Agenda 2020 Technology Summit, committee members made significant progress refining the goals and priorities for future work on Sustainable Forest Productivity in Agenda 2020. Rex McCullough of Weyerhaeuser Corp. and Larry Tornbaugh of North Carolina State University led the discussions (all participants are listed in the box on page this page). This report summarizes the committee's findings and recommendations.


World demand for wood and fiber will increase substantially with increases in population and economic prosperity. However, the land base for future wood production will be severely constrained by competing land uses such as crop production, residential development, recreation, and wilderness. An increasing share of future world demand will be supplied by lands managed intensively for wood production. Intensive management will create opportunities for wood quality improvement, which in turn can enable reductions in manufacturing costs, better energy efficiency, and increases in product quality.

The Sustainable Forest Productivity program in Agenda 2020 should focus on two primary goals:

* Produce higher value raw materials

* Reduce manufacturing costs


Our ability to produce higher value raw materials and reduce costs depends on a wide range of social and political factors, as well as progress in science and technology. Agenda 2020 focuses primarily on science and technology issues, but recognizes the critical importance of other factors and their interactions with science and technology.

To achieve its goals related to Sustainable Forest Productivity, Agenda 2020 must work in coordination with other programs to bridge four critical gaps.

Gap 1: Increase the potential of trees to produce more and better wood.

Centuries of genetic improvement have produced enormous gains in agricultural crop productivity and quality, in contrast, most efforts to improve tree species for wood production have been underway for fewer than 50 years. Although researchers have already achieved some important gains, the rate of tree improvement must increase to enable substantial and sustainable increases in forest productivity.

Gap 2: Clearly define and manage the ecological risks associated with forest biotechnology.

Biotechnology holds great potential to increase the rate of genetic tree improvement. There is, however, a high degree of public concern about genetic modification of trees and other organisms. Public concerns could delay or prevent progress in forest biotechnology (due to regulatory issues or a lack of product acceptance). The industry must address ecological risks and social concerns associated with forest biotechnology thoroughly and responsibly.

Gap 3: Achieve and sustain the full productive potential of forest soils.

Research and operational experience have shown that agronomic practices such as weed control and fertilization can be adapted for use on forest soils to achieve significant increases in tree growth. However, forest soils often present extreme operational challenges (lot instance, seasonally-high water tables or steep slopes) and are typically inferior to agricultural soils with respect to key properties affecting plant growth (including aeration, capacity to supply water and nutrients). Nationally, investments in the science and technology of forest soil management are woefully inadequate to realize the lull productivity potential of forest soils.

Gap 4: Capture and integrate gains from forest technologies to the final product.

Supply chains for wood raw material are often very complex in the forest sector In the United States, inherent sources of complexity include the following:

* the diverse interests and capabilities of public and private landowners,

* multiple layers of taxation and regulation,

* increasing customer and public interest in sustainable forestry certification, and

* reliance on diverse independent contractors at all stages of production.

Complex supply chains often impede information flows between land managers and wood users, making it more difficult to understand and realize the full potential value of improvements in wood yield and quality.


Gap 1: Increase the potential of trees to produce more and better wood.

Biotechnology--Biotechnology will greatly accelerate the genetic improvement of tree species, with important potential benefits for national energy and environmental performance. Agenda 2020 should advocate greater public support for pre-competitive research in forest biotechnology generally, and focus its funding resources on the functional genomics of wood formation and wood quality in model tree species.

Physiology of intensively managed stands--Physiological studies will identify mechanisms of tree and stand responses to intensive silvicultural treatments, thus providing a basis for extrapolating experimental results to a larger population of sites. Physiological studies will also produce fundamental information on processes of tree growth and development, thus providing a foundation for genomics and genetic engineering.

Gap 2: Clearly define and manage the ecological risks associated with forest biotechnology.

Ecological risk assessment--Agenda 2020 will help define and evaluate ecological risks that may be associated with transgenic trees. Risk assessments should focus on specific technology applications and should consider the following: characteristics of the transgenic trees themselves, characteristics of environments in which transgenic trees might be deployed, and the design and expected effectiveness of risk reduction measures.

Flowering control--Research on flowering control will develop and test methods for producing transgenic trees that do not produce male or female flowers during commercial rotations. Researchers expect flowering control to greatly reduce any risks that might be associated with "gene flow" from transgenic plants to other organisms.

Gap 3: Achieve and sustain the full productive potential of forest soils.

Manage nutrient supply and availability--Forest productivity can be increased substantially by managing the supply and availability of nitrogen and other nutrients. Agenda 2020 will develop technologies that optimize wood production per unit of fertilizer applied while reducing off-site movement of fertilizer and the associated potential for water quality impairment.

Develop sensors and diagnostic tools to improve nutrient management--Agenda 2020 will support the development of cost-effective methods for accurate and early detection of nutrient deficiencies in managed forests, thus enabling improvements in fertilizer use efficiency. For example, it may be feasible to develop diagnostic assays of tree foliage chemistry using hyperspectral sensors carried on aircraft or satellites.

Gap 4: Capture and integrate gains from forest technologies to the final product.

Systems for timely and spatially explicit inventories--Advances in sensor and information management technologies will enable new kinds of forest inventory systems capable of delivering "just in time" data on wood inventories ready-for-harvest at stand and sub-stand levels of resolution. Eventually, these systems will be able to provide comprehensive data on the quality and quantity of' available wood. A near-term research priority is to measure natural variability in important wood properties and determine how wood properties are controlled by environmental and genetic mechanisms.

Models capable of forecasting quality/quantity of future wood supplies--Advanced inventory systems will be coupled with new generation computational models to produce spatially explicit forecasts of wood supplies. Field studies of tree and stand responses to modern silvicultural treatments will supply essential input data for model calibration and testing.

Decision support for integrating precision forestry and manufacturing--Precision forestry systems will produce large amounts of known-quality wood on a relatively small land base. This will foster the development of more efficient timber harvesting and transportation, it will also create opportunities for manufacturing efficiencies based on greater knowledge of raw material characteristics relative to manufacturing processes and end product quality specifications. Agenda 2020 will support research on information and decision-support systems needed to capture the benefits of precision forestry.


Wood structure/property relationships--The industry needs better understanding of the relationships between certain wood properties and the quality of end products. Such relationships guide forestry research on genetic and silvicultural options for improving wood quality. Topics of interest include fiber morphology, wood anatomy, chemical composition, and the effects of these wood quality parameters on wood and paper product properties.

Measurement methods--We cannot derive value from improvements in wood properties until we can rapidly measure those properties with trees, between trees, between stands and within mills. The industry needs cost effective and high-throughput methods for non-destructive measurement of important fiber and wood properties such as cellulose content, micro-fibril angle, and modulus of elasticity. Sensors must work in difficult forest and mill environments in real time as integral parts of harvesting and mill operating equipment.

Logistics--Advanced wood quality measuring technology will enable efficiencies in supply chain management. These measurement technologies can be integrated with advanced logistics that coordinate product demand forecasts with wood supply models, harvest scheduling, logging and transportation, woodyard operations, and manufacturing.

New products and processes--If we can use new technologies to produce substantial quantities of wood with specific desirable properties, we can then develop new products and processes. For example, we are now able to consider altering the secondary metabolic pathways of trees to grow wood that is easier to pulp, or that contains unusually high concentrations of useful polymers.


Sustainable forest productivity should remain a high priority for Agenda 2020. There are many opportunities to develop technologies that will improve forest productivity and future wood supplies. Capturing these opportunities will significantly enhance industry competitiveness and the nation's environmental and energy performance.

Agenda 2020 has played several important roles in research on sustainable forest productivity. These include focusing national attention on research needs and opportunities; catalyzing partnerships among companies, universities, and agencies; identifying gaps that are limiting technological progress; and supporting critical projects.

During the next three to five years, the Sustainable Forest Productivity program in Agenda 2020 should focus available funding resources on the gaps and research priorities identified in this report, while monitoring progress in other programs. Monitoring progress in other programs will encourage coordination and reveal opportunities for collaboration.


* What role Agenda 2020 plays in focusing forest industry research

* Benefits--including higher value and lower costs--associated with advances in sustainable forestry

* The technology gaps that limit our industry's ability to create more value from its raw materials

* The research needed to bridge these gaps


* To learn about Agenda 2020:

* For Technology Summit information:

* The DOE and Forest Products Industry research:

Session Membership:

LEE ALLEN North Carolina State Univ.

CLARK BINKLEY Hancock Timber Resources

MIKE BROWN Boise Cascade Corp.

VINCENT CHANG Michigan Technological Univ.

RICHARD DANIELS University of Georgia

STEVE FRIDLEY University of Washington

ROBIN GRAHAM Oak Ridge National Laboratory

ROBERT KELLISON International Paper






BART THIELGES Oregon State Univ.

LARRY TOMBAUGH North Carolina State Univ.

Alan Lucier is senior vice president of NCASI, Durham, North Carolina, USA. Contact him at +1 919-558-1993, or by email at

John Pait is vice president of U.S. markets for CellFor, Atlanta, Georgia, USA. Contact him by email at

Peter Farnum is VP of forestry and raw materials research for Weyerhaeuser Co., Federal Way, Washington. Email:
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Title Annotation:Technology Summit
Author:Farnum, Peter
Publication:Solutions - for People, Processes and Paper
Date:Jun 1, 2002
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