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Wood properties and processing outcomes for plantation grown African mahogany (Khaya senegalensis) trees from Clare, Queensland (18 and 20 year-old trees) and Katherine, Northern Territory (14 year-old trees).

Zbonak, A. and Brown, T. and Harding, K. and Innes, T. and Davies, M. (2010) Wood properties and processing outcomes for plantation grown African mahogany (Khaya senegalensis) trees from Clare, Queensland (18 and 20 year-old trees) and Katherine, Northern Territory (14 year-old trees). Technical Report. Department of Employment, Economic Development and Innovation (DEEDI).

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Publisher URL: http://www.deedi.qld.gov.au/

Abstract

Khaya senegalensis, African mahogany, a high-value hardwood, was introduced in the Northern Territory (NT) in the 1950s; included in various trials there and at Weipa, Q in the 1960s-1970s; planted on ex mine sites at Weipa (160 ha) until 1985; revived in farm plantings in Queensland and in trials in the NT in the 1990s; adopted for large-scale, annual planting in the Douglas-Daly region, NT from 2006 and is to have the planted area in the NT extended to at least 20,000 ha.

The recent serious interest from plantation growers, including Forest Enterprises Australia Ltd (FEA), has seen the establishment of some large scale commercial plantations. FEA initiated the current study to process relatively young plantation stands from both Northern Territory and Queensland plantations to investigate the sawn wood and veneer recovery and quality from trees ranging from 14 years (NT – 36 trees) to 18-20 years (North Queensland – 31 trees).

Field measures of tree size and straightness were complemented with log end splitting assessment and cross-sectional disc sample collection for laboratory wood properties measurements including colour and shrinkage.

End-splitting scores assessed on sawn logs were relatively low compared to fast grown plantation eucalypts and did not impact processing negatively. Heartwood proportion in individual trees ranged from 50% up to 92 % of butt cross-sectional disc area for the visually-assessed dark coloured central heartwood and lighter coloured transition wood combined. Dark central heartwood proportion was positively related to tree size (R2 = 0.57). Chemical tests failed to assist in determining heartwood – sapwood boundary. Mean basic density of whole disc samples was 658 kg/m3 and ranged among trees from 603 to 712 kg/m3.

When freshly sawn, the heartwood of African mahogany was orange-red to red. Transition wood appeared to be pinkish and the sapwood was a pale yellow colour. Once air dried the heartwood colour generally darkens to pinkish-brown or orange-brown and the effect of prolonged time and sun exposure is to darken and change the heartwood to a red-brown colour. A portable colour measurement spectrophotometer was used to objectively assess colour variation in CIE L*, a* and b* values over time with drying and exposure to sunlight. Capacity to predict standard colour values accurately after varying periods of direct sunlight exposure using results obtained on initial air-dried surfaces decreased with increasing time to sun exposure. The predictions are more accurate for L* values which represent brightness than for variation in the a* values (red spectrum). Selection of superior breeding trees for colour is likely to be based on dried samples exposed to sunlight to reliably highlight wood colour differences.

A generally low ratio between tangential and radial shrinkages was found, which was reflected in a low incidence of board distortion (particularly cupping) during drying. A preliminary experiment was carried out to investigate the quality of NIR models to predict shrinkage and density. NIR spectra correlated reasonably well with radial shrinkage and air dried density. When calibration models were applied to their validation sets, radial shrinkage was predicted to an accuracy of 76% with Standard Error of Prediction of 0.21%. There was also a strong predictive power for wood density. These are encouraging results suggesting that NIR spectroscopy has good potential to be used as a non-destructive method to predict shrinkage and wood density using 12mm diameter increment core samples.

Average green off saw recovery was 49.5% (range 40 to 69%) for Burdekin Agricultural College (BAC) logs and 41.9% (range 20 to 61%) for Katherine (NT) logs. These figures are about 10% higher than compared to 30-year-old Khaya study by Armstrong et al. (2007) however they are inflated as the green boards were not docked to remove wane prior to being tallied. Of the recovered sawn, dried and dressed volume from the BAC logs, based on the cambial face of boards, 27% could potentially be used for select grade, 40% for medium feature grade and 26% for high feature grades. The heart faces had a slightly higher recovery of select (30%) and medium feature (43%) grade boards with a reduction in the volume of high feature (22%) and reject (6%) grade boards. Distribution of board grades for the NT site aged 14 years followed very similar trends to those of the BAC site boards with an average (between facial and cambial face) 27% could potentially be used for select grade, 42% for medium feature grade, 26% for high feature grade and 5% reject.

Relatively to some other subtropical eucalypts, there was a low incidence of borer attack. The major grade limiting defects for both medium and high feature grade boards recovered from the BAC site were knots and wane. The presence of large knots may reflect both management practices and the nature of the genetic material at the site. This stand was not managed for timber production with a very late pruning implemented at about age 12 years. The large amount of wane affected boards is indicative of logs with a large taper and the presence of significant sweep. Wane, knots and skip were the major grade limiting defects for the NT site reflecting considerable amounts of sweep with large taper as might be expected in younger trees.

The green veneer recovered from billets of seven Khaya trees rotary peeled on a spindleless lathe produced a recovery of 83% of green billet volume. Dried veneer recovery ranged from 40 to 74 % per billet with an average of 64%. All of the recovered grades were suitable for use in structural ply in accordance to AS/NZ 2269: 2008. The majority of veneer sheets recovered from all billets was C grade (27%) with 20% making D grade and 13% B grade. Total dry sliced veneer recovery from the logs of the two largest logs from each location was estimated to be 41.1%.

Very positive results have been recorded in this small scale study. The amount of colour development observed and the very reasonable recoveries of both sawn and veneer products, with a good representation of higher grades in the product distribution, is encouraging. The prospects for significant improvement in these results from well managed and productive stands grown for high quality timber should be high. Additionally, the study has shown the utility of non-destructive evaluation techniques for use in tree improvement programs to improve the quality of future plantations.

A few trees combined several of the traits desired of individuals for a first breeding population. Fortunately, the two most promising trees (32, 19) had already been selected for breeding on external traits, and grafts of them are established in the seed orchard.

Item Type:Monograph (Technical Report)
Business groups:Agri-Science, Horticulture and Forestry Science
Additional Information:© The State of Queensland (Department of Employment, Economic Development and Innovation)2010. Copyright protects this publication. Except for purposes permitted by the Copyright Act 1968, reproduction by whatever means is prohibited without prior written permission of the Department of Employment, Economic Development and Innovation. http://www.dpi.qld.gov.au/77.htm. Enquiries should be directed to Commercialisation Unit SAFTRSCopyright@deedi.qld.gov.au or telephone the Business Information Centre on 13 25 23 (Queensland residents) or +61 7 3404 6999.
Keywords:African mahogany; Khaya sensegalensis; wood properties; processing; plantation; straightness; log end splitting; shrinkage; heartwood; colour.
Subjects:Forestry
Science > Statistics > Statistical data analysis
Deposited On:10 Oct 2011 04:48
Last Modified:08 Jun 2015 15:58

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