Flagship Initiatives

Mid-Term Fibre Supply Initiative

Restrictions on access to traditional fibre sources will require the forest industry to increase harvest levels in timber supply areas with significant challenges to economic viability. These challenging conditions include:

  • small tree stands
  • low-volume stands with partial sawlog components
  • partially harvested stands (like commercial or pre-commercial thinning)
  • salvage after catastrophic events (fire, epidemics, windthrow, etc.)

Timber supply in interior B.C., for example, is becoming increasingly constrained as a result of the impact of the mountain pine beetle. Timber supply is also constrained by habitat management guidelines (e.g., caribou in the boreal forest, adjacency rules, or ungulate winter range). The forest industry needs to develop harvesting systems that are profitable in these marginally economic stands. FPInnovations Page 7 A multidisciplinary approach is necessary to bridge new harvesting methods, alternative transportation configurations, new equipment, sorting and processing optimization, examples from other jurisdictions, and integration of processes traditionally thought of as separate. The approach should be a balance between current and new practices.

Current Projects

Click on each title below for project details

Commercial Thinning to Mitigate Fibre Shortfalls

Commercial thinning can provide alternative fibre sources because it permits access to stands that have not yet reached maturity, especially in second-growth stands growing close to existing mills. However, commercial thinning has not been used extensively in most parts of Canada because it is more expensive than clearcutting as a result of the low volume per tree of harvested stems, the lower harvested volume per hectare, and the protection effort toward the residual stand.

  • Develop cost-effective commercial thinning techniques that can provide quality logs and sustain healthy residual stands.
  • Assess machine productivity and costs in commercial thinning.
  • Assess impacts on residual stands.

Harvesting Small Wood and Low-Volume Stands

In eastern Canada, stands with small piece sizes are relatively common, especially in the boreal forest. The industry needs to develop processing methods that maximize log recovery and produce more or less pulp, with a stronger emphasis on local markets. The decision-making capabilities of machine on-board computers have dramatically increased over the past 10 years. In Scandinavia, these systems are widely used for optimized bucking. However, they are rarely used in Canada. This represents a huge opportunity loss in terms of production efficiency, product quality, value recovery, and costs.

In western Canada, most of the stands killed by the mountain pine beetle that are adjacent to mills have been salvaged, and all that remains are stands close to the mills that have been bypassed because of small piece sizes or stands with very long cycle times (e.g., six or more hours). Sorting at-the-stump trials in 2015 in Mackenzie, B.C., suggested the potential for up to $6/m3 in savings in processing costs if stems are pre-sorted by a feller-buncher. The application of an adapted sorting process would also contribute to reducing costs of treating stands with a small stem size.

  • Demonstrate the potential gains in value recovery when using the optimization features of harvester on-board computers (eastern Canada).
  • Compare costs and productivity for a range of sorting scenarios in stands with small piece sizes (western Canada).

Regeneration Strategies

Direct seeding has been used semi-operationally in western Canada by several FPInnovations members for approximately five years now. More research is needed on the conditions necessary for treatment success. Trials have been established across different ecological zones and with different species, and need to be remeasured to determine which cases direct seeding is appropriate for.

In 17-18, FPInnovations will focus on evaluating modified equipment and new species. There is a need for seeding of multiple species (or seedlots) in a mix. There is also interest in seeding Douglas-fir, but the irregular shape of the seed makes precise seeding mechanically challenging. Pelletizing the seed could be one way to resolve this issue. Some work has been done in developing this concept, but issues around pellet composition and moisture retention must be addressed.

Members in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains in Alberta report having 30% seedling mortality due to winter desiccation. Returning slash to the opening could provide protection to the seedlings by maintaining snow cover or blocking wind. A field trial was established to determine the costs and effect of treatment on seedling survival, and this trial will be remeasured to assess survival.

Members have expressed interest in revisiting the use of machines for planting. Planting attachments have been developed for excavators that can cultivate and/or create a mound on the soil and plant a tree. Mechanical planting may provide a cost-effective regeneration alternative for companies facing large areas that need reforestation, and may be a safe alternative to manual planting for reforestation of hazardous terrain.

  • Evaluate direct seeding field trials for germination success.
  • Evaluate the mechanics and germination success of seeding with pelletized seed.
  • Evaluate the seedling survival rate on a slash takeback trial.
  • Evaluate the effectiveness and productivity of mechanical planting machines.

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Charles Friesen