Herbicide research answers questions

The use of herbicides in forests is a controversial topic in Oregon, throughout the country and the world. For the past eight years, Oregon State professor of landscape and wildlife ecology Matthew Betts and his research team have studied them closely, in a study partially funded by the college’s Institute for Working Forest Landscapes. The research team paid close attention to the effects on wildlife and timber production.

“This study is relevant locally because herbicide use is commonly-used on Oregon Department of Forestry and industrial lands,” Betts says. “In the Pacific Northwest, it’s the primary silvicultural method that follows clearcutting.”

Betts says the topic is becoming relevant globally as herbicides become more popular in plantation forests worldwide. Currently, about 35 percent of timber comes from plantations, and in the next 50 years, experts project that most timber will come from this source. Betts believes now is the time for forest managers to have adequate scientific information to inform decisions about whether or not to use herbicides.

His study on intensive forest management is the largest of its kind in the world. The research team worked together with industry and the State of Oregon to study 32 stands of 15 acres or more with four different levels of herbicide treatments ranging from no treatment at all in the control group through more heavily treated stands similar to those in a commercial setting, and an extreme treatment that exceeds current spray practices.

Stands that have or haven’t been treated with herbicides can usually be recognized based on the amount of vegetation growing at the foot of young forests whose canopies haven’t yet closed. Untreated forests tend to have green floors, whereas heavily treated forest floors are initially quite bare.

Eight years into the experiment, Betts says the saplings they started with are huge in relative terms. The research team has also learned how herbicides affect various species of plants and animals within the forest.

“There’s little doubt that on the timber side, trees grow faster when herbicides are sprayed,” Betts says. “Our study shows that the most heavily sprayed stands produce up to 30 percent more volume, but there is an effect on biodiversity.”

The study measured herbaceous plants, birds, pollinators such as bees, deer, elk, moths and other insects.

“There were more bird species in areas where we didn’t spray herbicides,” Betts says. “Wilson’s Warbler was one of the most affected species. We also saw depressed numbers of pollinators. Surprisingly, we did not detect much of a change in populations of deer, elk and moths.”

Betts says that around year five of the study, for the most part, the number of species began to equalize and recover.

“Even the heavily-sprayed stands began to turn green,” he says. “In the end, some species responded negatively, some species have been resilient and some responded negatively and then recovered.”

Land managers pay up to $200- 250 per acre for herbicide spray. Money is spent up front and not returned until stands are harvested at age 40-50.

On the economic side of the study, the research team concluded that herbicide isn’t cheap, and that spraying does not always generate additional financial value.

“You could spend $250 per acre now, or invest that money in a bank somewhere. If your expectation is a financial yield of seven percent or greater, we’ve found that it doesn’t make economic sense to spray, all other things being equal,” says Betts.

He emphasizes the study saw no failed stands or plantations, and valuable biodiversity tended to increase without herbicide use. The research team will continue to monitor the stands up to the 15-year mark when the canopy will start to close, limiting sunlight to shrub species. They also plan to survey the general public about aspects of the study and perceptions about herbicide use.

That’s where Mark Needham, Oregon State professor of social science, policy and natural resources, comes in.

“We began surveying in early 2019,” Needham says. “We’re focusing on a number of small, rural communities in the coast range near the stands in the study. We plan to ask residents about their knowledge, attitudes and perceptions associated with the herbicide issue. We hope to survey at least 400 people.”

Instead of asking one-off questions, Needham says that in this context, it’s important for survey respondents to make tradeoffs and prioritize their interests.

“This study spans so many different areas including wildlife, soil, water, pollinators and economic impacts, so it’s important to make sure we look at the tradeoffs people are willing to make within the context of herbicide use,” Needham says.

Betts agrees land managers and the general public need to decide if they want forests with more biodiversity but less timber growth per acre, or less biodiversity and high rates of timber production.

“Without spray,” he offers, “you need to spread out forestry operations to get the same amount of lumber. With spray, you have more tightly-packed and intensely managed stands, which can potentially free up land for conservation.”

Betts realizes these are hard decisions. “The results of this study are just not as straightforward as we expected them to be,” Betts says. “We hope this science will help managers and the public make educated decisions about herbicide use amid the controversy.”

Creating a safer future for foresters

Cable-assisted harvesting systems are gaining popularity in the Pacific Northwest. Stewart Professor of Forest Operations Woodam Chung says there are about 20 systems in use in the Pacific Northwest already, and that number is growing.

The systems are undeniably safer than traditional cable yarding systems and manual cutting, because, thanks to mechanized harvesting, cameras and other technology, no one has to be on the forest floor near falling trees.

“One worker sits at the top of a hill with a camera,” explains Graduate Student Preston Green. “He can see where his grapples are and grab the logs at a safe distance.”

Chung says this process eliminates the need for choker setters and fellers – some of the most dangerous jobs in the forest industry.

The technology for cable-assisted harvesting was developed in Europe about 20 years ago, and recently adapted by Oregon State for use on steep slopes in the Pacific Northwest.

Once the tree is cut by a cable-assisted cutting machine, the machine swings and piles the tree along the skyline corridor, where it will be picked up and transported to a mill for processing.

In addition to the safety of the system, Chung is looking at other aspects including soil impact. His research team has already completed two studies on soil impact. He says industry professionals and members of the public perceive large equipment causes soil compaction, but two initial studies, one in the McDonald-Dunn Forest and one on Lone Rock Timber’s land, concluded that, depending on soil types and moisture content, loosening may occur after machine traffic.

“Now the question is, what does this mean in terms of erosion or soil moisture content?” asks Chung. “That’s what we’re looking at now.”

Chung and his team will continue to study interactions between soil, machine and water.

“We will use silt fences to look at erosion and measure the amount of erosion we collect,” Chung says.

Researchers want to learn what kind of impact this erosion might cause on water quality in streams and rivers at the base of logging operations.

Another aspect of the study is the economic impact.

“Cable-assisted mechanized harvesting is more productive than manual cutting, especially on steep slopes,” Chung says, “But the machine is expensive. Timber companies will have to weigh the costs and benefits for themselves and decide how to harvest.”

Green agrees, “If these systems can produce more timber at a reduced cost, then it’s a win-win for everyone involved.”

A strong wall to bring forest to frame

Construction of the A.A. “Red” Emmerson Advanced Wood Products Lab is underway on the Oregon State University campus. The new lab will add 15,000 square-feet of structural testing space to the Oregon State College of Forestry, which already boasts some of the best technical research facilities in the nation.

A new state-of-the-art space

The laboratory will also be home to a 2,500 square-foot advanced wood products manufacturing area, a flexible demonstration and classroom area and the TallWood Design Institute offices.

“There are a variety of ways research and teaching can intersect in this new space,” says Arijit Sinha, associate professor of renewable materials at Oregon State. “When we complete large-scale tests, we will need an army of undergraduate helpers. It will be a great experiential learning opportunity for students, while at the same time offering us new, world-class capabilities to test buildings at full scale.”

Juliana Ruble, former advanced wood products lab manager and project engineer for Andersen Construction, agrees.

“The new lab will provide space for architects, engineers, wood products manufacturers and researchers to come together and develop new products and new building systems designs,” she says.

A CNC panel processing center will be capable of creating large panels and straight beams as well as curved beams and other, smaller wood products. Another robotic machine will expand architectural fabrication opportunities.

A strong floor for large tests

A 60-by-80-foot strong wall and reaction floor system will facilitate testing of up to three-story wood structures.

The strong floor and accompanying reaction wall are composed of  four-foot thick concrete. Anchors are attached to the floor and wall on a four-by-four-foot grid. Each anchor has a 60-kip capacity for a total of 240 kips for each cluster of four anchor points. The reaction wall is capable of withstanding a 150-kip reaction while the floor can withstand 500-kip compression across a twelve-inch diameter area.

“Our strong floor will be one of the largest related to wood and timber research in the U.S.,” Sinha says. “We will use the floor and reaction wall to test materials and structures. The strong base of the floor mimics a rigid surface during tests.”

Oregon State and TDI researchers anticipate using the facility to conduct seismic tests, connection tests, wall connection tests, loading tests and more.

“We do these tests now on a smaller scale,” Ruble says. “This new facility will more than double our research capacity while increasing our manufacturing research capabilities and our ability to bring in industry, students and stakeholders to learn in an applied research environment.”

Making connections, continuing research

Sinha researches connections within mass-timber buildings, and will continue this work inside the new lab. His current project focuses on nondestructive evaluation of mass-timber by exposing connection materials to extremes of modular and biological exposure on two different species of CLT.

Sinha will also assess how wood buildings react to biological attack including fungi. The research project is funded by the USDA, and the team includes collaborators from Portland State University.

“The results will be incorporated into building codes,” Sinha says. “This project is important because it will tell us how things play out overtime in wood buildings with intrusion of moisture.”

Welcoming art, welcoming everyone

Blank walls in the Richardson Hall knuckle inspired the first College of Forestry art contest in 2017. Temporary walls replaced the connection point to old Peavy Hall, as construction began on the new Oregon Forest Science Complex.

The college’s faculty and staff found themselves scattered throughout other campus buildings including Richardson, Snell and Strand Hall and needed a reason to come together.

The first art contest and show with the theme, ‘The Other Side,’ was held February 17, 2017, and diversity was key to organizers and participants.

All faculty, staff and students were invited to participate, and art mediums chosen were as diverse as the people creating them. The contest saw paintings, sculptures, wood working, photography and more. The pieces were judged by representatives throughout the college and campus.

With the College of Forestry’s commitment to equity, inclusivity and diversity, 2017 also saw the formation of the college’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee. The college and committee are devoted to addressing DEI issues in the realm of forestry and natural resource management – through education, research and public engagement. The committee will draw fully and inclusively on the power and force of human imagination, experience and creativity to meet the needs of today’s world.

With this in mind, the art show continued in 2018 with the theme of ‘Innovation.’

Assistant Professor Seri Robinson requires students in the art and design option within the renewable materials program to participate in the art show each year.

“It gives the students a chance at expression using media they are familiar with,” Robinson says. “Because they all have a deep science background in wood and forests, they can apply deeper meaning to art created with the art show’s theme in mind.”

Robinson thinks the art shows have been a great success. “We’ve had some really great work submitted,” Robinson says. “And it’s been a great opportunity for students to talk about their feelings about the college climate, especially in terms of diversity, in a more public forum.”

Exploring ecotourism in Chile

One important task of the College of Forestry’s Office of International Programs is connecting Oregon State students with hands-on learning experiences abroad. This includes internships that provide educational opportunities and practical experience for students.

Shelby Knight, a natural resources student at Oregon State University-Cascades in Bend, gained all of this and more during an internship experience in Chile.

“From a professional-development perspective, I learned how to better navigate language and cultural barriers. I improved my understanding and use of the Spanish language and learned about the Chilean culture.”

Growing up in Central Oregon, Knight fell in love with natural resources, but was never sure exactly what she wanted to pursue as a field of study or career.

“I love that the natural resources major is broad, diverse and offers opportunities to explore different aspects of the natural sciences,” she says. “Since coming to OSU Cascades, I’ve become interested in the interface between humans, human development and ecosystems.”

Through her involvement in the Natural Sciences Club at OSU Cascades, Knight met other students who participated in study abroad opportunities.

“I had no idea that this was even a possibility for me as a Cascades student, and I began to look for opportunities to go abroad through OSU,” Knight says.

She found and applied for a short term, faculty-led study abroad opportunity in Chile. During the application process, she learned about the option to stay behind after the experience to complete an internship.

“I loved the idea of staying in Chile for a longer period of time,” she says. “I chose to intern with Huilo Huilo Biological Reserve because they had a relationship with OSU, and their eco-tourism and conservation model really interested me. Plus, it looked like the most beautiful place to spend two months – and it was.”

Knight worked in the excursions department of the biological reserve where she helped deliver environmental, cultural and outdoor education to guests. She also tracked and mapped ‘illegal’ trails within the reserve, assisting Huilo Huilo with their trail interpretation plan, which will help the organization develop replanting and recovery strategies for illegal trails.

Knight also helped develop a nature-driven children’s program for the Reserve’s called Los Pequeños Exploradores or The Tiny Explorers. This experience inspired Knight to pursue research abroad after graduation.

“I learned a lot about myself by entering an unfamiliar situation,” she says. “I can’t wait to keep learning and exploring.”

Educating the public on wildfire

Residents of the Western United States are living in a time of change. The forest is stressed from high tree densities, drought, and insect and disease outbreaks. The forest landscape neither looks nor functions as it did before fire suppression efforts began more than a century ago.

In 2017, Oregon experienced one of the worst wildfire seasons on record with more than 700,000 acres burned across the State resulting in ecological, social and economic damage. These damages cost the state of Oregon millions of dollars each year and billions across the nation.

Our forests need help

Oregon State researchers and extension agents have emphasized the need for viable forest management practices to help mitigate the risks and impacts of high-intensity and high-severity fire events.

Enter Daniel Leavell, Klamath and Lake County extension agent and Carrier Berger, extension associate and program coordinator for the Northwest Fire Science Consortium.

Their goal is to affect change when it comes to the unique and complicated nature of wildfire.

The pair are planning a comprehensive way to address fire in Oregon. It’s called the Fire Program. The team believes a sound fire program uses science as a foundation to provide education and outreach to the public, leading to the promotion and strategic use of cross-boundary, landscape-scale restoration and wildfire riskreduction projects.

Getting the work done

A successful fire program works to achieve the goals of the National Cohesive Wildland Fire Management Strategy, which encourages resilient landscapes, fire adapted communities, and safe and effective wildfire response.

Local partnerships are key, including one with the nonprofit group, Klamath-Lake Forest Health Partnership (KLFHP). KLFHP is working with the fire program to implement sound, science-based management across ownership boundaries in Klamath and Lake Counties.

“We collaborated across ownership boundaries to implement forest health treatments,” Leavell says.

“This creates seamless, healthy forest landscapes resilient to disturbance while working with partners to implement work on the ground across private and public lands to achieve objectives.”

Leavell hopes other individuals and communities use this as a model and modify it to meet the needs of their local circumstances.

What’s next?

Leavell and Berger are seeking funding to support the statewide Fire Program. “People are really grabbing onto the concept of this program and what we’re trying to accomplish,” Berger says. “Funding would bolster the program and help us get work done on the ground through our landscape efforts.”

Leavell agrees and believes that partnerships are key in successfully bringing the program to life.

“Oregon State University’s work in this area is critical,” Leavell says. “Together with homeowners, landowners, and land managers (public and private), we can make a real difference and affect management changes that impact the health of our forests and communities.”

Research that sticks

Oregon State University is one of two sites for the Wood-Based Composites Center (WBC), an industry and university cooperative research center funded by the National Science Foundation. The other is Virginia Tech University. The two institutions work with academic and industry partners to advance the science and technology of wood-based composite materials. The center completed a number of research projects in FY 2017 and FY 2018 that will lead to wood product innovations and improved performance.

Micron level 3D visualization of adhesive bonds in wood products

For the first time, researchers achieved a true characterization of the micro-structure of adhesive bonds in wood.

Laminated wood products, like glulam beams and plywood, rely on the integrity of adhesive bonds that are only a few microns thick. Adhesives penetrate the porous structure of wood. This project asked the question, ‘does the extent of penetration affect mechanical performance of the final product?’

Fred Kamke, director of WBC and JELD-WEN Chair of Wood-Based Composites Science, says the goal of the project was to observe how adhesive bonds perform when subjected to mechanical loads and moisture, focusing on the analysis on the adhesive bond.

Richardson Chair in Wood Science and Forest Products, John Nairn, created a mathematical model to predict mechanical performance of an adhesive bond based on its microstructure. Kamke and his graduate students collected the 3D microstructure data and used micro and nano x-ray-computed tomography to create 3D digital models of adhesive bonds. While wood is an extremely porous structure that readily absorbs adhesives, the researchers found that as much as 50 percent of the adhesive that penetrates the cell lumens may not contribute to bond strength. However, penetration of adhesive into the cell wall helps to stabilize the bond against the effects of moisture.

“Cell wall penetration improves the moisture durability,” Kamke says. “With this information, adhesive companies can improve their formulations and create adhesives to be engineered for a particular application, saving money for the manufacturers and improving performance of the products.”

Natural formaldehyde emissions from wood

Some adhesives, such as ureaformaldehyde, emit low levels of formaldehyde over their lifetime as they slowly decompose. Modern adhesive formulations and test protocols ensure these levels fall within the acceptable federal guidelines. However, as formaldehyde detection technology improves, the adhesive industry faces pressure to reduce formaldehyde emission levels.

Kamke says there are still many unanswered questions about formaldehyde.

“People wonder if formaldehyde is in their house,” he says. “Can it cause us harm? How much formaldehyde is OK? How low should emissions be? Although we don’t know have all of the answers to these questions, government regulations still need to be met.”

What researchers do know is that many substances, including human bodies, other animals and natural materials like wood, emit low levels of formaldehyde naturally.

Chip Frazier, Virginia Tech professor of sustainable biomaterials, wanted to learn exactly how much formaldehyde pure, natural, virgin wood does emit. The tests showed how formaldehyde levels in different wood species are affected by temperature change, and what formaldehyde levels are derived from wood itself.

“This data establishes a baseline level of source formaldehyde from wood, and will likely have a significant impact on future federal indoor air quality policy and the future of wood-based composite products, because just particleboard and fiberboard production alone is a $1.6 billion industry in the United States,” Kamke says. “This study and the resulting policy changes will have impacts on everyone involved in bonding wood with adhesives, and will have a positive impact on future indoor air quality across America.”

Outreach work continues

The WBC continues to educate the public through traditional classroom and online short courses. Seven online courses were added in 2016.

Kamke says the most popular is a basic course on wood adhesives that’s been running for 15 years.

“Our plan is to add more online courses,” Kamke says. “Enrollment is growing, and we are proud to continue to educate the producers and the public about the wonderful world of wood-based composites.”

Staff Q&A: Misty Magers

How long have you been at Oregon State?

I’ve been here 20 years. I’ve worked in the College of Forestry and the College of Agricultural Sciences. I moved back to the College of Forestry for good in 2006, and I’m currently the administrative manager for the department of Forest Ecosystems and Society.

What’s your favorite part of your job?

The people. That’s why I came back to the college. Everyone is very friendly and fun to laugh with. We had so much fun at the college’s holiday party this year.

 

What do you do outside work?

I like to go camping all year long, ride four wheelers and travel.

Where are some of your favorite spots?

My latest trips were to Yellowstone and Grand Tetons National Parks, and also to Arizona. I like to see new things.

 

Are you a native Oregonian?

Yes. I’ve lived here my whole life and graduated from Philomath High School. I don’t think I’ll ever leave. My kids are here and my new granddaughter.

What’s your favorite food?

Mexican food!

 

How do you unwind after work?

I play a lot of mindless Facebook games.

 

If you could eliminate one thing from your daily routine, what would it be and why?

Probably vacuuming my long-haired cat’s hair.

 

What is your favorite part of the holidays? 

Probably just spending time with my kids and laughing together.

 

You have a lot of bears in your office. What’s that about? 

I collect bears! I like them because they seem so soft and cuddly, not that I’d like to run into one in the wild!

Staff Q&A: Sunny Rong

How long have you been at Oregon State? How did you end up here? What’s your career been like?

Two and half years. I moved to Oregon with my husband in August 2016 because of his job at OSU.

I was a stay-home mom for the first one and half years, and started my job at OSU College of Forestry in January 2018.

What’s your favorite part of your job?

My favorite part of my job is the people I work with. They are kind, warm and supportive.

What does your life look like outside work? Tell me about your family and your hobbies.

I have two kids. My daughter just turned six, and my son is four years old. My husband is an anthropologist.

I like piano, harp and classical Chinese music (Zheng, or Zither), and I also like gardening, trying different food, watching films, reading books and travelling.

 

Have you read, watched or come across anything in pop culture, or just in life lately that you’d like to share with the CoF community?

I’m afraid I am a bit old-fashioned and don’t know much about pop culture…..I’d like to share some of my favorites: all Miyazaki’s cartoon films, Into the West (2005) by Steven Spielberg, Amélie (2001) by Jean-Pierre Jeunet.

Did you celebrate Chinese New Year earlier this year? What does that mean to you? Tell me about your heritage.

It’s a festival of family reunion. In my family, we make dumplings after dinner at New Year’s Eve and eat dumplings as the first breakfast in the New Year.

On the first day of New Year, young members of the family receive red envelops from seniors as a symbol of good luck.

When I was little, my grandparents and parents always put the red envelops under my pillows to ward off evil spirits and protect me from sickness.

Now it’s my turn to put red envelops under my kid’s pillows. I guess that’s part of my “heritage.”

Iain Macdonald selected to lead TallWood Design Institute

Iain Macdonald has been selected as director of the TallWood Design Institute (TDI), a unique research collaboration between the Oregon State University College of Forestry, College of Engineering, and the University of Oregon School of Design. It is the nation’s only research collaborative that focuses exclusively on the advancement of structural wood products, and serves as a national research, education, and outreach hub focusing on multi-family and non-residential wood buildings.

Macdonald has served as Associate Director of TDI since November 2016. Previously, he led the Centre for Advanced Wood Products at the University of British Columbia for nine years.

Since his arrival, TDI has collaborated with a wide range of community and industry partners to help develop new and innovative products, provide testing services for manufacturers, engineers and designers, conduct educational seminars, round table events and networking meetings for industry, and carry out applied research projects. In January, TDI hosted the Oregon Mass Timber Development Summit in partnership with Business Oregon, attracting over 180 elected officials, economic development personnel, investors and industry representatives to Salem to discuss how to grow Oregon’s mass timber supply chain.

The institute’s applied research program, drawing from the deep expertise within OSU’s Wood Science and Engineering and Civil and Construction Engineering departments and University of Oregon’s Architecture department, is eliminating barriers to widespread adoption of mass timber technology. Data from product testing and development enables building code officials to evaluate and propose changes that make it easier to permit mass timber buildings in the United States. Last year, Oregon was the first state in the nation to adopt new code provisions that bring buildings up to 18 stories within code.

In May 2019, TDI will move into the Oregon State University College of Forestry’s new A.A. “Red” Emmerson Advanced Wood Products Laboratory, a state-of-the-art facility that includes sophisticated manufacturing equipment, a robotic machining cell, and one of the largest structural testing areas in the US. Simultaneously in Eugene, University of Oregon is preparing to build a Timber Acoustic Testing Facility to fill yet another major research and development need.

As director of TDI, Macdonald will lead a growing interdisciplinary team that will continue to support and grow the research and testing program, offer innovative educational programs, and work closely with industry to identify and address opportunities and barriers.

“I’m excited to lead the TallWood Design Institute and partner with two outstanding universities,” Macdonald says. “Our affiliated faculty members are conducting collaborative, world-class research that will advance new solutions for designers, manufacturers and engineers, and enable us to build taller, larger and smarter with wood.”