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Renewable industrial materials from the hills: Adding value to trees - NF0521

Trees are an integral part of the UK’s landscape and rural economy. Unfortunately, the economic benefits provided by trees and their by-products (e.g. timber) have declined in recent years. Standing timber price has plummeted to a 25 year low. Allowing for inflation, standing timber prices are only 42% of what they were 10 years ago [1] (bibliography in appendix B). The challenge is to find alternative uses for and ‘add value’ to these resources. This will be of special importance to upland communities that rely on forestry as a source of income, where diversification into alternative enterprises is more difficult because of climatic, geological and legislative restrictions (e.g. National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty).
Alternative uses and product life-cycle analyses for trees as low-value, high volume feedstocks for the biofuel and biocomposites (e.g. chip board) industries are well-documented. The aim of this proposal is to identify innovative applications for upland forestry species (e.g. Sitka spruce, Scots pine, Lodgepole pine) through diversification of markets for forestry-derived products via exploitation of structural materials and components, resins, secondary metabolites and other novel products to the benefit of rural upland communities.
Successful attainment of these research goals will assist in Defra it meeting its economic and social objectives in promoting the exploitation of natural resources to ‘sustain and enhance the distinctive environment, economy and social fabric’ of our countryside [2].
The output from this project will be an information database which can be used by the upland community to identify the most promising ways of adding value to their trees in the way which is most relevant to them. The information from the database will also be of value to industrialists seeking sources of renewable raw materials and to members of the general public with interests in materials of natural origin. It will also be used as the basis for a follow-on project (possibly under LINK) in which research will be undertaken to identify those components which are responsible for the observed activities and to elucidate methodologies and management practices by which their yields can be maximised.

1. To identify priority plant materials and metabolites for development and produce a preliminary market report (Month 6).2. To optimise extraction of key metabolites through development of environmentally benign methodologies (Month 18).3. To assess the potential for chemical modification or manipulation to add value to the identified materials (Month 30)4. To assess the efficacy of modified or unmodified materials (Month 33)5. To quantify economic benefits for the rural community arising from the most promising opportunities (Month 33) 6. Produce a comprehensive database of information listing the key opportunities to obtain materials from trees (Month 36)
Time-Scale and Cost
From: 2003

To: 2006

Cost: £299,430
Contractor / Funded Organisations
University - York, Central Science Laboratory
Agricultural Land              
Hill Farming              
Natural Resource Use              
Rural Development              
Fields of Study
Non-Food Crops