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Executive Summary
The UK Forest Resource
Secondary Metabolites From Trees
Non-Timber Markets For Trees
Extraction Technologies For Tree Metabolites
Adding Value To Tree Metabolites
Further Research

Tree Metabolites
Extraction Technologies
Adding value to Tree Metabolites
Collaborative Development

Modelling Tools
Further Research
In its recent report on "Chemicals in Products", the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution (2003) recommended driving change through a charging scheme to encourage substitution of chemicals of concern, greater product liability and extended producer liability. These drivers will force industry to seek alternative chemical products that are sustainable and less environmentally damaging whilst maintaining the necessary performance characteristics.
The potential availability of large quantities of tree-derived residues either from the forest floor or as by-products from the pulp and wood products industries, new extraction and derivatization technologies, and the need to replace fossil fuels with renewable alternatives, bodes well for the future of trees as feedstocks for these alternative chemical products. However, the literature reveals that over the last three decades funding for wood science and related R&D has been in dramatic decline across the world, with other non-food crops attracting disproportionately greater amounts of public and government support (Rowe 1989; Harms 1998). Without further support for R&D the likelihood of providing support enabling for the fledgling added-value products and markets to flourish will be much reduced.
Tree metabolites
The database generated by this review reveals a daunting range of tree metabolites and associated marketable activities. Despite this apparent abundance of information there is a dearth of data on the yield or variability in yield of metabolites for the UK's tree species upon which to base an assessment of economic potential. In the short-term, basic research is required to quantify the impact of tree genetics and environmental factors on yield and hence the final quality of the tree product. In the longer term, research will be required to develop techniques to improve metabolite yields and simplify extraction (e.g. by reducing the concentration of contaminants) by chemical or genetic manipulation of the sites and control mechanisms of metabolite biosynthesis.
Extraction technologies
Prominent amongst the reasons for the failure of many wood extractive ventures and hence the development of the sector, was the non-specificity, inefficiency and environmental hazards posed by the techniques used to extract the tree metabolites. Further R&D is required to support the adoption of the new extraction technologies (e.g. scCO2) that could provide, efficient, specific, environmentally- and process-friendly methods of obtaining the value-added products at competitive cost.
Adding value to tree metabolites
The review also identifies new opportunities to transform tree metabolites into value-added products. Cellulose chemistry has come to a technological turning point with a number of new cellulosic products emerging that have novel and wide-ranging properties. These products can offer improved performance and environmental (e.g. biodegradability) advantages over competitor materials (e.g. starches). Again R&D support is required to fully evaluate the generic potential of these materials and thereby accelerate their adoption.
Collaborative development
Finally, there are many interacting factors that will influence the success of adding value to trees, ranging from the yield of the tree metabolites to the chances of displacing competitor products in the market. If undertaken in isolation, lengthy searches for exotic metabolites, or elegant schemes for isolation, or screening for possible uses for the isolated substance, are likely to yield good science but zero utilisation. The successful exploitation of the knowledge contained within this wide-ranging review will require the collaboration of experts across the sector including foresters, biologists, chemists, agronomists, industrialists and business economists.
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We thank the Forestry Commission and the Government-Industry Forum for Non-Food Crops for funding this review and M. Askew, Q. Chaudhry, G. Ceddia, J. Hardy, N. Price and R. Quy for their assistance in compiling and commenting on this review.