Technology to help predict and control wood quality

Friday 7 Aug 2020

Forest growers across Australia have been enthusiastically exploring recently-launched technology that enables easy and affordable assessment of wood quality in standing trees. The innovative tool also supports decision making relating to planting locations and forest management practices, to best serve the future quality of stands.

The team behind the initiative believes the ability to predict, maintain and improve timber quality in plantations will help decrease risk and improve grower productivity, competitiveness and profitability.

The tool works by using small-diameter drill technology known as IML-RESI to quickly and cost effectively capture details of a tree’s wood variability and quality. The recorded data (also known as ‘traces’) get uploaded to a specially-developed online wood-quality assessment platform, where it’s processed and interpreted to estimate average density and stiffness across the stand.

Geoff Downes of Forest Quality, which led the FWPA-supported research, explained that while growers have historically sold logs to processers on the basis of volume rather than quality, the ability to easily measure quality indicators could change all that. “Being able to measure wood quality in standing trees at a particular site, cost-effectively and with minimal effort, means growers get a better understanding of the properties of processed timber, which determines price,” Downes said.

“Communication between growers and processors around the information collected can be used to create an understanding across the supply chain of how the standing tree properties will relate to the products that ultimately come out of the sawmill.”

The technology also has advantages in aiding grower decision making around which sites and silvicultural practices will impact the stiffness and volume of their timber. This knowledge will allow growers to plan for improved wood quality in their stands, meaning increased value for processors.

“Since launching earlier this year, the technology has been put to the test by growers and processors from across the industry, with close to 20 companies purchasing IML-RESI instruments or actively exploring the possibilities,” said Downes.

The online wood quality assessment platform can be accessed by clicking here.

The project was supported with funding provided to FWPA by industry partners, together with matched funding from the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources. The 12 industry partners include HQPlantations, HVP Plantations, the Forestry Corporation of NSW, Timberlands, OneFortyOne Plantations, PF Olsen, Highland Pine, AKD Softwoods, Norske Skog, GTFP, Hume Forests and Hyne Timber.

For more details on this project, view the project report here or email

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Source: R&D Works, July 2020

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