The pulp and paper properties of Sirex noctilio infested and fire-damaged thermomechanically pulped, South African grown Pinus patula.
Pinus patula is the softwood species most extensively planted in South Africa. However, large portions of these plantings are under threat from Sirex noctilio infestation and occasional forest fires. In this exploratory investigation, the effects of tree age, Sirex noctilio infestation and fire damage to wood from Pinus patula trees on their pulp and paper properties were evaluated. Pulp was produced using the thermomechanical pulping (TMP) process. The energy consumption required to pulp the different pulpwood materials was determined. Pulps were beaten for five different time periods to investigate the development of the fibre properties in response to increasing energy input. Paper properties such as burst, tear strength and breaking length were determined on handsheets manufactured from unbeaten and beaten pulps. Box and line plots and canonical variate analysis biplots were used to statistically analyse the data. It was found that the burst strength of paper produced from healthy trees was significantly higher than that from sirex-infested or fire damaged (burnt) trees. Similarly, the tear strength of paper from healthy and burnt trees was significantly better than from sirex-infested or young trees. No significant differences in breaking length were evident between the pulpwood materials and an increase in beating time did not lead to any improvements. From this study it can be concluded that wood from dead or dying, sirex-infested and young trees produced paper with consistently lower strength properties compared to wood obtained from healthy 12-year-old trees.