Press ReleasesDevelopment of Precision Forestry Technology that Boosts Biomass Production by a Factor of more than 1.8 TimesUse of Three Technologies for Soil Sensing, DNA Marker Breeding and Remote Sensing
New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization
Nippon Paper Industries Co., Ltd.
Nippon Paper Industries Co., Ltd., Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology, and Chiba University have jointly developed precision forestry technology in the New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO) project that enables the amount of biomass production from plantation trees per unit area to be increased by more than 1.8 times, compared to the current method. This technology was developed using soil sensing technology for forestry, DNA marker breeding technology and remote sensing technology that were developed by the three organizations. This achievement will be used for wood biomass production at overseas plantations, with an aim to develop and strengthen a wide range of manufacturing industries that use wood biomass as major materials, as well as forestry.
While biofuels is deemed to be important as a method of addressing global warming, reduction of their raw material cost is required so they can compete with fossil fuels. What has become an issue in this context is the amount of biomass production per unit area of a plantation. In addition, the supply of low-cost, high-quality plantation trees helps to protect the global environment because it enables the reduction of timber cut from natural forests.
In a NEDO project*1, Nippon Paper Industries Co, Ltd., Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology, and Chiba University advanced the entrusted research aimed at increasing the biomass yield through measures including improved breeding and planting technology. This research was conducted at a eucalyptus plantation in northern Brazil owned by Nippon Paper Industries Co, Ltd. for approximately three years, from December 2013 to February 2017. During the research, the parties developed a soil sensing technology for forestry, aiming for soil assessment in a large area, a DNA marker breeding technology for selecting superior trees and a remote sensing technology for biomass quantity assessment in a large area. By making use of these technologies, they have developed a precision forestry technology that enables an increase in the amount of biomass production from plantation trees per unit area by more than 1.8 times, compared to the conventional method.
Figure1. Overview of the research
Nippon Paper Industries Co., Ltd. will make use of the achievements from this research for wood biomass production at overseas plantations and study their applications, which will lead to the development and strengthening of a wide range of manufacturing industries that use wood biomass as major materials, not to mention the forestry industry.
(1) Development of a soil sensing system (soil sensor) attached to a forestry tractor that is capable of collecting soil information efficiently and promptly
The organizations have developed a soil sensing system (soil sensor*2) attached to a forestry tractor, which is capable of collecting soil information, such as nutrient composition, efficiently and promptly in plantation fields. A rapid soil evaluation can be made using this system, enabling land to be selected that is appropriate for the growth of plantation trees and secure 1.3-times larger amount of biomass production compared to the conventional method.
Figure2. Soil sensing system (soil sensor)
(2) Development of a DNA marker breeding technology for the indirect selection of useful traits of planation trees
The organizations have developed a DNA marker breeding technology that uses the genome (difference in the base sequence of DNA) of plantation trees as the mark (DNA marker*3) for the indirect selection of useful traits such as growth potential and wood properties*4. This technology has enabled the successful selection of superior trees, whose estimated amount of biomass production is 1.4-times larger than the conventional method.
Figure3. Result of selection of superior clones
A combination of the above technologies (1) and (2) enables an increase in the amount of biomass production per unit area by more than 1.8 times (1.3 x 1.4) compared to the current method. It is expected to reduce the raw material cost for eucalyptus chips (cost of trees and logging, transportation and cutting costs) by 44%.
(3) Development of a remote sensing technology aiming for high-precision biomass quantity evaluation on a large plantation
The organizations have developed a remote sensing technology aiming for high-precision biomass quantity evaluation on a large plantation, using a UAV*5 and a terrestrial laser scanner*6. This has enabled the measurement of the amount of biomass more precisely and efficiently.
Figure 4. Large-area biomass volume evaluation
*1 NEDO project
Project name: Development of Efficient Element Technology for Biofuel Production/ Research and Development into Increased Woody Biomass Production through Genome Breeding and High Efficiency Forestry Operations
Total project cost: 5,138 million yen (263 million yen for this theme)
Project period: FY2013 to FY2017
Parties to which the project is entrusted: Nippon Paper Industries Co., Ltd., Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology, and Chiba University
*2 soil sensor
An optical spectrum detector whose structure is designed to be towed by a tractor. Soil information for estimating soil component values and evaluating the planting ground can be obtained from the data from the spectrum measurement.
*3 DNA marker
A DNA domain with a special base sequence, whose position on genomic DNA has been identified. Individual trees differ slightly in the base sequence of DNA, and the use of this difference as a mark (DNA marker) enables the indirect selection of useful traits such as wood properties.
*4 wood properties
Traits that differ among individual trees, such as weight per volume (volume weight), cellulose volume and pulp yield
An unmanned aerial vehicle that can fly autonomously. Mounting a camera on this vehicle enables the shooting of aerial photos and videos.
*6 terrestrial laser scanner
A device that measures three-dimensional structures using a laser.