Source: eKapija | Thursday, 17.11.2016.| 14:18
Highlight an article Print out the news

European furniture manufacturers interested in paulownia from Serbia – Plantations of “the tree of the future” thriving

(Photo: Planto)
The paulownia trees from the first plantations in Serbia might end up in the European market in a few years. As eKapija learns, western European companies are interested in the tree, which has been compared to magic beans, as it can be used as an intermediary product in the furniture industry.

Ever since the appearance of hybrids which can thrive in this area, marked by great oscillations in temperature, an estimated 1,000 people in Serbia have planted saplings of this fast growing tree on areas ranging from 0.2 ha to 7-8 ha.

Planters gathered in the Planto association, founded in 2013, have 150-200 hectares in Serbia. Their mutual goal is to export the goods.

– The trees are used in the industry after 7 to 10 years, depending on the quality. If the growth trend continues, and if trees are taken care of, the first plantations will be ready for cutting down in 5 years – says Zeljko Spasojevic of Planto for eKapija and points out that wood industry companies have already contacted them.

As our interviewer explains, there is no market for paulownia in Serbia yet, but companies from Germany, Austria and Poland traditionally produce the tree, which is well known as an intermediary product in the furniture industry.

– A German company, producing bungalows and using 600,000 trees a year, is interested in paulownia from this area. They are looking for trunks with a circumference of 200-250 mm, which the trees reach in the fourth or fifth year of growth – Spasojevic emphasizes and adds that state institutions have also become involved and that 3,000 trees have been planted at the tailings pond of the Kostolac thermal power plant.

Planto produces hybrids for growing paulownia in cooperation with the Fruit Research Institute of Cacak, and the saplings are also exported to the EU. Last year, 70,000 saplings were shipped, and this year, almost 100,000 have been delivered. This is reliable, certified in vitro planting material, Spasojevic says.

– There are many ways for any plant, including paulownia, to reproduce. However, there is only one way to make a replica of the parent-plant, that is, to maintain all its characteristics. This can only be done by using in vitro technique, which requires special conditions and great expertise, as this is the only way to ensure getting trees with characteristics which make paulownia special in the first place – our interviewee points out and warns that semi-wild saplings, which grow more slowly and tend to bend, have appeared in the market.

In vitro production of planting material (Photo: Planto)
This is partially caused by increased interest in this type of tree.

– When we started in 2013, we were selling 10, 15, 20 pieces, and the buyers would plant on 0.2-0.3 hectares the next year, as the plants grew. We are now contracting sapling shipments measuring in hectares.

Spasojevic adds that everybody wants to make money, and that there's a lot of land available in Serbia. Paulownia is not too demanding. It can grow in areas up to 1,000 meters of altitude, can't thrive in marshes and needs to be irrigated in drought conditions, ideally using the drop-by-drop system.

– The tree requires intensive maintenance in the first year or two. If guidelines are followed, this is a great plant – it can grow to up to 7-8 meters in the first year following the formation of the root system.

The average market price of the paulownia tree is EUR 300-400, sometimes even up to EUR 1,000 per cubic meter, depending on the class of the tree itself, as well as the intermediate product.

– It would be profitable even if it were only EUR 100 per tree – Spasojevic says. Experts call paulownia “the tree of the future” precisely because of how profitable it can be. Following the cutting down, trees are regenerated from the trunk, allowing for up to seven such cycles.

(Photo: Planto)
Diverse use

Paulownia is used to produce furniture, musical instruments, sailing boards, airplane and ship components, toys, paneling and ship decks exposed to rain, saunas...

The tress are also used as fuel, and the plantations are of great use to beekeepers as well, as the flowers are full of nectar. It can be also used as cattle feed, as it is considered to be more nutritious than alfalfa. If fallen leaves are covered with soil, they will make for a quality humus fertilizer.

Paulownia is also called an oxygen plant due to its great mass and the amount of leaves, whose width can reach 75 cm. It is assumed that one tree can produce as much oxygen as spent by 60 people. It's not a great polluter even in burning. A ton of paulownia produces merely half a kilogram of ashes, and it is ideal for afforestation of bare areas.

It's interesting to note that Porsche and Audi use paulownia for decorative interior elements in their cars. Another interesting bit of trivia says that, in China, its country of origin, a paulownia tree is planted whenever a female child is born. Later, before the young woman is married, the tree is cut down and used to make furniture for the dowry.

Ivana Bezarevic

Only logged-in users can comment.