The variation of microfibril angle in South African grown Pinus patula and its influence on the stiffness of structural lumber
Reduction in the rotation ages of softwood saw-log plantations in South Africa is causing increased proportions of low stiffness sawn lumber at final harvest. It has been shown for some species that the microfibril angle (MFA) of the S2 layer of tracheids is strongly related to the modulus of elasticity (MOE) of wood, even more so than wood density, especially in wood formed during juvenile growth. The objectives of this study were to describe the variation in MFA in young Pinus patula trees and to determine the relationship between MFA and the dynamic MOE of sawn P. patula lumber. Thirty 16- to 20-year-old trees from six compartments from the Mpumalanga escarpment were processed into discs and lumber. The MFA, density and ring width were measured at two height levels using Silviscan 3. The average annual ring MFA varied between 7° and 29°; the pattern of variation depended mainly on height level and the ring number from the pith. The MFA in P. patula followed the same within-tree variation trends as in New Zealand-grown Pinus radiata but the average MFA was lower in absolute terms and differences between height levels were less pronounced. The MFA and density exhibited highly significant Pearson correlations of 0.73 and 0.70, respectively, with board dynamic MOE. A multiple regression model, which included MFA, density and ring width, explained 71% of the variation in the dynamic MOE of boards. A sensitivity analysis on the model showed that MFA and density had approximately similar influences on predicting the dynamic MOE of Pinus patula boards.
Keywords: density, juvenile wood, modulus of elasticity