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sector_ico_Forestry_trans Forestry

Spruce-Pine-Fir ratio determination in wood chip piles

  • Project Leaders: Richard Hamelin, Paul Bicho
  • Institutions: University of British Columbia (UBC)
  • Budget: $75000
  • Program/Competition: GeneSolve
  • Genome Centre(s): Genome British Columbia
  • Fiscal Year: 2019
  • Status: Closed

The forest sector is an important economic driver for British Columbia, accounting for 32% ($14.2 B) of B.C.’s total exports. The forest industry relies heavily on harvesting conifers, particularly spruce, pine and fir (SPF), which are processed into woodchips and powder to make downstream lumber products and pulp. Mills need to know the species contained in incoming woodchip piles because this information can affect the processing of materials and the quality of the downstream products. Accurately determining species composition allows mills to optimize processing, improve yields and generate nearly $1 million in annual economic value.

Dr. Hamelin and his team at UBC aimed to develop tools for Canfor, a BC based sawmill company, to use to rapidly and accurately determine the ratio of tree species present in fine woody products.

The research team developed a simple DNA extraction method to help industry partners conduct analyses on-site at the mill. This method can yield a sufficient amount of DNA directly from woodchip samples within 3 hours. This eliminates the need for highly trained personnel and complex laboratory procedures while producing results quickly.

Gene sequence data was used to develop assays that identify key regions in the genomes and detect the ratio of each species in the woodchip piles. Preliminary tests successfully determined SPF ratios in woodchip samples with up to 98% accuracy for spruce and pine and 85% accuracy for fir. The team hopes to validate this at a larger scale in an industrial setting. By identifying the species composition in woodchip samples, Canfor can enhance feedstock management and better understand how composition can impact downstream processes and product quality.

The methods developed lay the foundation for industrial partners to efficiently, rapidly and accurately manage their biomass mixtures. This generates greater economic value and helps maintain BC’s thriving forest industry.