Paulownia Trees – Sustainable Timber Production
Sustainability and timber are not often words that are heard together, though there is no reason that they should not be. The Paulownia Princessa Tree is a mixed blessing and curse depending on who is asked to describe it. It is considered an invasive species in many locations around the globe and must be closely managed and maintained if its utilization is to be successfuli. It also provides a sufficient number of benefits to make it worth any and all of the extra environmental management that will need to be in place to make it work properly.
It is perhaps best to look at some of the potential detriments of the utilization of the Paulownia trees before too much consideration is given to the potential benefits.
This species has a prolific rate of growth, comparable to and even exceeding the growth of the fastest growing bamboo plants. Some varieties in the proper climates will literally grow inches in a single day. While this can certainly be a benefit, it can also be very detrimental to the local ecosystems as well. Thus, it is fairly safe to say that the use of these trees should be relatively sparse in nature, or contained within a more controlled, plantation environment where the many different uses can be isolated and taken advantage of to their fullest extent.
Some potentially beneficial additional uses include using the paulownia trees in the berms or risen middle portions of rice fields. In such a location, the paulownia would be limited or restricted in its spread, provide shade for the farmers, remove vast amounts of the harmful nitrates left as residual in the local soil from the over-use (and even abuse) of chemical-laden fertilizers, prevent erosion and serve additional functions such as the provision of lumber, feeds for the water buffalo commonly used to plow the fields … and for other livestock such as ducks that are routinely marched through the fields.
The leaves of the Paulownia Tree are highly proteinous and have been shown to contribute to increased birth rates and birth weights in pigs and cattle, to increased egg production in chickens and to increased growth weights. It is not known how the introduction of the Paulownia leaves will change the solid waste of the livestock or whether or not it will be beneficial to the production of biofuelsii. The leaves to be used will most likely be premature leaves which also merits further testing to discover whether or not the premature leaves will have the same nutritional benefit and impact as the mature Paulownia leaves. The premature leaves will be selected from the plantation growth of Paulownia that has been planted for the sustainable Lumber and Timber programs.
When people think about the Lumber and Timber Industry, one of the last things most people think about is sustainability, but again, the Paulownia tree has many properties that make it ideally suited for a great many purposes, including sustainability in the production of lumber and timber. The wood from the Paulownia tree is light blonde in color and highly prized and sought after for everything from arts and crafts to musical instruments to furniture to housing construction materials and more. There are some very unique features of the wood that make it both diverse and valuableiii.
When the wood from the Paulownia tree is first cut, it is very soft and pliable akin to the leafy wood of a banana tree … though without the “leafy” aspect of the timbers or lumber. It is most frequently during this period that much of the wood is shaped for specific purposes. Such purposes may include shaped wood forms for furniture or other ornate structures or for smaller, more finely detailed and ornate additions to smaller arts and crafts, or even for particular pieces of musical instruments that may be more difficult to shape with a harder wood. What makes the wood from the Paulownia tree unique in this case is that, upon drying, the wood obtains roughly the same hardness as cherry woodiv, a very common hardwood also very popular for its color and texture and for the construction of furniture and even knick knacks and other marketable goods.
So prolific is the growth rate of some species of the Paulownia Tree, that the initial harvesting for lumber can generally begin after two years of growth. Full veneer logs have been shown to be capable of being grown in as little as eight yearsv. Standard growth timber and lumber can be harvested from trees wherein the leaves have been allowed to grow to full maturityvi. The knots and “imperfections” in this wood are considered to give the wood “character” and bring it alive to many artisans. The veneer logs on the other hand, generally grown for anywhere from eight to twenty years each, must have all of the leaves and branches removed so as to remain knot-free. The heavy plywood from these trees is not actually ply, but single pieces of wood from a single cut, making the paneling substantially stronger and longer lasting and much more valuable.
There are nine variations of the Paulownia tree currently known to exist. The most common and the most prolific is the Paulownia Princessa. This is the variety being recommended for plantation growth in the current locations wherein the community developments have been approved, as it should do exceedingly well in the local climates. As mentioned before, the Paulownia Tree is also beneficial to environmental and ecological sustainability when it is properly managed and maintained. The root system of the Paulownia trees thrives on the nitrates and other chemical toxins used in most agricultural pursuits that do not rely on a more organic approach. A select and limited inclusion of Paulownia trees around the circumference of monocrop growth and limited crop growth fields will help to remove many of the toxins that farming has left in the soils.
The root system of the Paulownia tree is unique also in that it never dies when the tree is cut downvii. In fact, in much the same way as the banana tree, when the Paulownia tree is cut down, a new tree grows on the old stump. This means that the root system continues to grow, even after the tree has been cut down, be it for timber or lumber or merely to prevent it from blocking out other local plant life or fauna. This not only makes the Paulownia tree sustainable as a fully renewable source of lumber and timber, but also gives it properties that allow it to aid in the continued growth of more traditional agricultural pursuits and make it ideally suited for use in high-risk locations where erosion is a concern.
As long as it is properly managed, maintained … and contained, the Paulownia tree offers a great many benefits which indeed make it worthwhile and of note for viability and even for the environmental and economic sustainability of the Community Developments. It should still most likely not be introduced into the Food Forests however. Nevertheless, it does make an ideal solution for the many concerns about global reforestation and the ability of trees to absorb excess levels of Carbon Dioxide in the atmosphere.
The Moringa Oleifera tree is used by locals around the globe who utilize virtually every part of the tree. It is however, not recommended to utilize the roots as improper use can lead to nerves and/or nerve centers being paralyzed. Likewise, the pods may or may not present dangers if they are not processed correctlyviii. The focus of this plantation will be primarily regarding the drying and powdering (or grinding) of the Moringa Oleifera leaves as a dietary and nutritional supplement in addition to the introduction of the resultant Moringa Oleifera powder into other ingredients for other produced goods and potentially to be used as a feed supplement for livestock in addition to the human population.
The nutritional value of the leaves from the Moringa Oleifera seem to vary based on different factors including the growth environment, but remain exceptionally high in all studies conducted to date. One of the primary focuses of this portion of the project, should be the consistent creation of a highly fertile soil, especially designed for mono or limited crop growth in certain areas … such as that on a plantation. A consistency in the soil should help to maintain wholly consistent results in the nutritional value of the leaf powder being produced on the facility site. This will create a much more sustainable final market for the finished products from the plantation and should increase the value and benefits from the consumption of the finished products.
The younger, more tender leaves are better for immediate consumption, especially by children. However, the older, more mature leaves are better suited for drying with a minimal loss of nutritional value. Packaging of the leaf powder in whatever form it may take, should be vacuum sealed in order to minimize any potential oxidation and/or potential for additional loss in nutritional value of the leaf powder.
The Moringa Oleifera tree leaves should be made available in the open markets and to the feeding centers run and operated by, for and/or on behalf of the community development though it can easily be planted in virtually any location wherein the community developments have already been approved with a good expectation of growthix. There is no reason to expect that trees cannot be grown in virtually every yard or field, though these personal growth plants should perhaps be restricted to personal consumption.
Any and all local crops that can be grown for textile production should be considered for inclusion in the food forests and in other locations wherein such endeavors can be undertakenx. The textiles can be processed into clothing and other marketable goods not only for the local population but also for sale on online markets and in select markets around the globe. The association with the not-for-profit foundation and other marketing techniques should help this to provide work for some who are less capable in other areas and at the same time, help to provide added measures for the overall economic success and sustainability of the community development.
Additional crops for beneficial plants will also be included within the food forests and to offset the ill-effects of mono-crop agricultural production. These plants will be largely varied, though not least among them will be plants such as the Oregano plant which can be used to process virgin oils that have specific health benefits and can be converted into marketable products. The Palm Oil and Sugar Palm markets will not be included among these, at least not in their present form as these are hardly anywhere near sustainable in their current environments. However, ongoing research and development will also be pursued in order to ascertain more viable and sustainable methods for increasing crop production, even among grains and other species of growth that generally require large-scale, mono-crop methods.
i The Paulownia Tree, known as “The Tree of Life” in the Philippines, was used in the reforestation efforts of Region 2 in the Quezon province in the Philippines. Left unchecked and unmanaged, it completely overran entire local ecosystems. While the benefits are numerous and great, without any management system in place, the benefits were never recognized or attained.
ii Some types of biotic materials, when introduced into the feed of livestock, increase the levels of copper and zinc in the solid animal waste, resulting in an increased likelihood of the production of ammonia rather than the preferred and beneficial methane or natural gas that can otherwise be trapped, extracted and utilized for multiple purposes.
iii Veneer logs and wood often start at a selling price of roughly sixty US dollars per board foot on some international markets. Customer markets are also available wherein the wood is “pre-shaped” at harvest and dried in its desired shape to be shipped to the client as a piece or part for whatever they may be constructing. Custom racks are built to shape the wood and hold the shape during the drying process with finish and detail work (such as routing of edges) completed after the drying process is complete.
iv Cherry Wood in the US and in some of the finer furniture production companies, is highly sought after and used to make truly beautiful furniture pieces.
v The Paulownia Princessa Tree is the fastest growing of the nine variants of the Paulownia tree and also the one most likely to grow well in the environment and ecosystems of many of the locations wherein the community developments have been approved. The known history with the Paulownia tree from the author was grown in the alkali fields in Nevada, USA in a more harsh, high-desert climate and did not grow nearly so fast. The Paulownia Princessa is also the variant used in the reforestation efforts in the Philippines and that exhibited the ability to take over entire ecological systems so quickly.
vi The fact that some trees will have their leaves allowed to grow to full maturity while still others will be harvested “prematurely” will allow for extensive side-by-side testing for research and analysis and to determine if the premature leaves contain the same, higher or lower levels of the same benefits as the mature leaves.
vii The root systems may die in cases where the tree has contracted some disease or otherwise been damaged from its natural state. In its natural state, the root system will remain in place and the new tree will grow with the old root system still in place.
viii The seeds from the pod of the Moringa Oleifera should be processed to extract “Virgin Oil” (as opposed to rendered oils) and this should yield a highly nutritional, refined oil, safe for consumption. The remaining seed cake does have limited use but should not be consumed directly and can lead to health concerns.
ix The author has literally lost every plant in his yard due to a severe typhoon and witnessed his spouse retrieve a number of moringa or malunggay branches at random from among the debris, cut them at about a thirty degree angle, stick them into the ground and then watched them begin flowering in days and saw trees growing within a week to two weeks.
x Industrial hemp and jute are both high fiber crops with incredible ability for multiple purpose use. Not only textiles but a great host of products all of which can be either utilized and/or monetized.