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Wonderful Products from Wood

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July 26, 2019

Announcer: Farm and Family is a production of the Mississippi State University Extension Service.

Amy Myers: Today we're talking about our wonderful products from wood. Hello, I'm Amy Myers and welcome to Farm and Family. Today we're speaking with Doctor John Kushla, Mississippi State University Extension forestry specialist. John, how important are forests and wood products to us?

John Kushla: Amy, forests help generate the oxygen we breathe, purify the water we drink and incorporate carbon from the atmosphere into wood. In fact, timber is the number two crop in Mississippi. Forest products in this state contribute 12.8 billion dollars to the state economy every year. Almost 70,000 jobs are provided to Mississippians in the forest industry, which is about 17% of the employment, paying 3.1 billion dollars in wages. Also, we have 4.5 billion in value added processing, which are jobs and wages created in making products from raw wood. All in all though, over 5,000 products that we commonly use come from forests.

Amy Myers: So, what are some of these 5,000 products we make from wood?

John Kushla: Well, we have our traditional wood products including lumber, where large trees are sawed into boards that we use for building homes, decks and fences. We also have pulp and paper products, where would is chipped into small pieces and the wood fibers are separated chemically, to make paper for writing and packaging. We also have furniture manufacturing, which is a major industry, especially here in northern Mississippi, for making the tables, desks, and chairs we use every day.

Amy Myers: Are there any non-traditional products made from wood?

John Kushla: We can also use wood for making chemicals, plastics, synthetic fibers, composite products and even food additives. The wood fibers are broken down chemically into cellulose and then chemically recombined into new products. For example, rayon is a fiber made from cellulose. It is smooth, cool and comfortable. Rayon is used for making clothing and parachutes. Superabsorbent polymers are also made from cellulose. While this term is a mouthful, we all benefit from their use in making disposable diapers. Cellulose is also a food additive to syrup, cake mixes or ice cream. It provides thickness and a creamier texture. And finally, wood polymers can also be used for making thermoplastics such as bottles, or polyester, which is used in clothing.

Amy Myers: Of course, many fruits and nuts come from trees. Are there other edible products from trees?

John Kushla: Yes. Many flavorings come from tree seeds such as vanilla, cocoa, and coffee. Tea comes from tree leaves. Cinnamon comes from tree bark and, of course, maple syrup is distilled from tree sap. Medicines also come from trees. Salicylic acid, the main ingredient for aspirin is found in the bark of willow trees and taxol is derived from the bark of the Pacific yew, which is used in the treatment of various cancers.

Amy Myers: What are some new products we might see from forests?

John Kushla: The science of engineered wood products is growing. Here, wood parts are glued into sheets or dimensional lumber for construction. Familiar examples include plywood, oriented strand board and medium density fiber board. New products include mass plywood panels or MPP. Essentially, this is the fabrication of plywood sheets that are 8 or 12 inches thick and produced in sheets as big as a wall. Construction with such engineered wood products have been used in Europe for multi-story buildings to reduce the need for concrete. MPP building panels are designed on computers and cut with computer guided machines to create panels that fit precisely together. These panels are then fitted and bolted together into buildings onsite.

Amy Myers: So give me a summary of what we talked about today.

John Kushla: Wood is used in thousands of products that we enjoy every day, or eat every day. If you have other questions about forestry, call your local Extension office, or you can reach me at 662-566-8013.

Amy Myers: Thank you so much. Today we've been speaking with Doctor John Kushla, Mississippi State University Extension forestry specialist. I'm Amy Myers and this has been Farm and Family. Have a great day.

Announcer: Farm and Family is a production of the Mississippi State University Extension Service.

Department: Forestry

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