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Wood products impact daily life
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Many products Mississippians use every day are made from wood, and some of these can create extra income for forest landowners.
Butch Bailey, a forester with the Mississippi State University Extension Service, said most homes in the United States are built with wood, and the average home is built from about 25 trees. But people use other items on a daily basis that they probably do not realize are made from forest products.
"In America, we're lucky to live in such a wood-rich nation. Worldwide, people use on average 2 pounds of wood products each day; in America, each person uses about 6 pounds of wood every day," Bailey said. "Forest landowners aren't just growing trees for lumber and paper anymore."
A typical person's day starts out in the bathroom, where wood products can be found in shampoo and toothpaste. Bailey said these and many other products contain cellulose, which makes them thick and creamy. Cellulose also is derived from cotton.
Rayon, a common material in clothing, can be made from wood, and fingernail polish also contains wood products. Many edible products come from the forest, including cinnamon, which is the bark of a cinnamon tree.
"When you get home for dinner at night, you still can't escape wood products. If you grill food a lot, you may use charcoal, which is a processed hardwood," Bailey said. "And if you cook like I do, quite often you order pizza or Chinese takeout. These and many other food products come in cardboard boxes, which provide the insulation properties of wood."
Many wood products other than lumber can provide extra income for landowners. Extension forestry specialist John Kushla said forest products can come from any of the plants or plant parts -- including the leaves, twigs, bark, roots, sap, fungi and others -- that are found in forest ecosystems.
Some examples of non-timber wood products include pine straw, which can be raked and sold for mulch; grapevines that can be used for basketry and other decorative arts and crafts; Spanish moss for packing material; edible nuts and fruits; and medicinal herbs.
"Forests are home to things that can be used for creating flower arrangements, novelty items, wreaths, or dyes for clothing and painting. Many examples of these are found in Mississippi, including blueberry bushes, cattails, cedar boughs, dogwood, green briar, holly berries and magnolia cones," Kushla said.
Edible items found in forests include black walnuts, sweet pecans and blackberry, blueberry or raspberry bushes.
"Shiitake mushrooms can be grown on hardwood logs, such as oak, and can fetch upward of $4 to $5 per pound, or $2,000 per cord. However, these are very labor intensive and will cost about $1,000 to $1,500 per cord just to produce them," Kushla said.
The forestry specialist said much of the current knowledge about medicinal herbs came from Native Americans.
"A Confederate surgeon during the blockade of the War Between the States identified 400 substitute plants that could be used for pharmaceuticals," Kushla said. "Many of these can be found in Mississippi, including blue cohosh root, which is an anti-inflammatory; mayapple fruit, a laxative; saw palmetto berries, which combat prostate enlargement; wild cherry bark, an expectorant; and willow bark, an anti-rheumatic."
Kushla said a global market exists for medicinal herbs, and it is a multi-billion dollar business. He warned, however, that market segments drive this industry, and conditions can change quickly if harmful side effects appear. For example, sassafras used to be used quite frequently to treat fever, lice, rheumatism and urinary tract infections until it was found to cause cancer.
"You can make money on these wood products. The key is to develop a business plan and research potential markets before investing time and money," he said. "Markets may be seasonal, and information may be difficult to find. But once you have all the information, you can incorporate that into your management plans for your forest land so that you have a renewable resource."
For more information on starting an alternative wood products business, contact Kushla at (662) 566-2201 or the local county Extension office.