Finnish Forest Research Institute  Metla

Press release 29.05.2006

Provenance trials of global test series on Siberian larch to be implemented in Finland

Provenance test plantations of Siberian larch (Larix sibirica Ledeb.) will be established at Punkaharju and Rovaniemi. Establishing the test plantations is part of a research project of unparalleled breadth based on seed material collected in the late 1990s as a Russian-Scandinavian cooperation. The collection area covered the entire distribution area of Siberian larch in Russia, from Äänisjärvi to the Pacific Ocean. The seed material has previously been used to establish test sites in all parts of the northern hemisphere: Sweden, Norway, Iceland, Russia, Japan, Canada and the USA.

Establishing the provenance test plantations is part of a broader project known as SIBLARCH (Decay resistant timber – Siberian larch compared to Scots pine in forestry and products), and belongs to the Interreg III B Northern Periphery programme. The idea of the project is to promote the use of Siberian larch in forestry and wood products. The project is implemented as a collaboration between research organizations, regional operators and industrial companies in Finland, Sweden, Norway, Iceland and Russia.

The Punkaharju Research Unit of Metla participates in the project by implementing the Siberian larch tests in Metla’s research forests at Punkaharju and Rovaniemi. Seeds from almost 400 trees derived from indigenous areas will be used in the tests. Almost 15,000 seedlings will be planted and the total test area is approximately 8 hectares. The planting of the test seedlings is scheduled for weeks 21 and 22 at Punkaharju and for week 24 in Rovaniemi. In addition to Metla, the other partner from Finland participating in the project is YTI Research Centre from Mikkeli. Their studies concentrate on drying methods of larch timber.

The aim of establishing the test plantations of exotic tree species is to find out if tree species exist in other parts of the world that have better properties than the ones indigenous in Finland. Siberian larch has been shown to be one of the most promising of the foreign species. In fertile sites it grows better than Norway spruce or Scots pine and additionally, the wood properties of larch differ from our indigenous species. Even at a young age, a significant proportion of larch stem is decay-resistant heartwood.

Larch is a natural alternative to chemically impregnated wood. In Finland alone 350,000 m3 of wood, mainly pine, is treated annually with creosote or with salts of copper, chromium or arsenic. The artificial impregnation of wood is the largest source of heavy metals in Scandinavia.

After the last glaciation, Siberian larch was one of the first tree species introduced to Scandinavia and Finland, but for an unknown reason it disappeared from the area already in pre-historic times. However, starting in the 18th century, it was reintroduced by man. The Siberian larch stand of Raivola, on the Karelian Isthmus, was founded in 1738. It was a source of enthusiasm and seeds for the Siberian larch stands established elsewhere in Finland. Today there are approximately 20,000 ha of Siberian larch forests in Finland (0.1% of the total forested area). The Siberian larch cultivated in Finland originates mainly from the Raivola stock, and the seeds for forest cultivation are bred in domestic seed orchards. The researchers hope that the tests being established will bring forth even better provenances of Siberian larch than the ones currently used in Finland.

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