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Thursday, 10 March 2011 15:28

Bark and Sap Production

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Some text was revised from the articles “Hemp”, by A. Barbero-Carnicero; “Cork”, by C. de Abeu; “Rubber cultivation”, by the Dunlop Co.; “Turpentine”, by W. Grimm and H. Gries; “Tanning and leather finishing”, by V.P. Gupta; “Spice industry”, by S. Hruby; “Camphor”, by Y. Ko; “Resins”, by J. Kubota; “Jute”, by K.M. Myunt; and “Bark”, by F.J. Wenzel from the 3rd edition of this “Encyclopaedia”.

The term bark refers to the multilayered protective shell covering a tree, shrub or vine. Some herbaceous plants, such as hemp, are also harvested for their bark. Bark is composed of inner and outer bark. Bark starts at the vascular cambium in the inner bark, where cells are generated for the phloem or conductive tissue that transports sugar from the leaves to the roots and other parts of the plant and the sap wood inside the bark layer with vessels that carry water (sap) up from the roots to the plant. The primary purpose of the outer bark is to protect the tree from injury, heat, wind and infection. A great variety of products are extracted from bark and tree sap, as shown in table 1.

Table 1. Bark and sap products and uses

Commodity

Product (tree)

Use

Resins (inner bark)

Pine resin, copal, frankincense, myrrh, red resin (climbing palm)

Varnish, shellac, lacquer

Incense, perfume, dye

Oleoresins (sapwood)

Turpentine

Rosin

Benzoin

Camphor (camphor laurel tree)

Solvent, thinner, perfume feedstock, disinfectant, pesticide

Violin bow treatment, varnish, paint, sealing wax, adhesive, cement, soap

Gymnast’s powder

Perfume, incense, plastic and film feedstock, lacquers, smokeless powder explosives, perfumes, disinfectants, insect repellents

Latex

Rubber

Gutta-percha

Tyres, balloons, gaskets, condoms, gloves

Insulators, underground and marine cable coatings, golf balls, surgical appliances, some adhesives, chicle/base for chewing gum

Medicines and poisons (bark)

Witch hazel

Cascara

Quinine (cinchona)

Cherry

Pacific yew

Curarine

Caffeine (yoco vine)

Lonchocarpus vine

Lotions

Emetic

Anti-malaria medicinal

Cough medicine

Ovarian cancer treatment

Arrow poison

Amazonian soft drink

Fish asphyxiate

Flavours (bark)

Cinnamon (cassia tree)

Bitters, nutmeg and mace, cloves, sassafras root

Spice, flavouring

Root beer (until linked to liver cancer)

Tannins (bark)

Hemlock, oak, acacia, wattle, willow, mangrove, mimosa, quebracho, sumach, birch

Vegetable tanning for heavier leathers, food processing, fruit ripening, beverage (tea, coffee, wine) processing, ink colouring ingredient, dyeing mordants

Cork (outer bark)

Natural cork (cork oak), reconstituted cork

Buoy, bottle cap, gasket, cork paper, cork board, acoustic tile, shoe inner sole

Fibre (bark)

Cloth (birch, tapa, fig, hibiscus, mulberry)

Baobab tree (inner) bark

Jute (linden family)

Bast from flax, hemp (mulberry family), ramie (nettle family)

Canoe, paper, loincloth, skirt, drapery, wall hanging, rope, fishing net, sack, coarse clothing

Hat

Hessians, sackings, burlap, twine, carpets, clothing

Cordage, linen

Sugar

Sugar maple syrup (sapwood)

Gur (many palm species)

Condiment syrup

Palm sugar

Waste bark

Bark chips, strips

Soil conditioner, mulch (chips), garden pathway covering, fiberboard, particleboard, hardboard, chipboard, fuel

 

Trees are grown for their bark and sap products either by cultivation or in the wild. Reasons for this choice vary. Cork oak groves have advantages over wild trees, which are contaminated by sand and grow irregularly. The control of a rubber tree leaf rust fungus in Brazil is more effective in the sparse tree spacing of the wild. However, in locations free of this fungus, such as in Asia, plantation groves are very effective for cultivating rubber trees.

Processes

Three broad processes are used in harvesting bark and sap: stripping of bark in sheets, debarking for bulk bark and bark ingredients and the extraction of tree fluids by cutting or tapping.

Bark sheets

Stripping sheets of bark from standing trees is easier when the sap is running or after steam injection between the bark and the wood. Two bark stripping technologies are described below, one for cork and the other for cinnamon.

The cork oak is cultivated in the western Mediterranean basin for cork, and Portugal is the largest cork producer. The cork oak, as well as other trees such as the African baobab tree, share the important feature of regrowing outer bark after its removal. Cork is part of the outer bark that lies beneath the hard outer shell called the rhytidome. The thickness of the cork layer increases year-by-year. After an initial bark removal, harvesters cut regrown cork every 6 to 10 years. Stripping the cork involves cutting two circular and one or more vertical cuts without damaging the inner bark. The cork worker uses a bevelled hatchet handle to remove the cork sheets. The cork is then boiled, scraped and cut into marketable sizes.

Cinnamon tree cultivation has spread from Sri Lanka to Indonesia, East Africa and the West Indies. An ancient tree management technique is still used in cinnamon cultivation (as well as willow and cascara tree cultivation). The technique is called coppicing, from the French word couper, meaning to cut. In neolithic times, humans discovered that when a tree is cut close to the ground, a mass of similar, straight branches would sprout from the root around the stump, and that these stems could be regenerated by regular cutting just above ground. The cinnamon tree can grow to 18 m but is maintained as 2-metre-high coppices. The main stem is cut at three years, and the resulting coppices are harvested every two to three years. After cutting and bundling the coppices, the cinnamon gatherers slit the bark sides with a sharp, curved knife. They then strip the bark off and after one to two days separate the outer and inner bark. The outer corky layer is scraped off with a broad, blunt knife and discarded. The inner bark (phloem) is cut into 1-metre lengths called quills; these are the familiar cinnamon sticks.

Bulk bark and ingredients

In the second major process, bark may also be removed from cut trees in large rotating containers called debarking drums. Bark, as a byproduct of lumber, is used as fuel, fibre, mulch or tannin. Tannin is among the most important bark products and is used to produce leather from animal skins and in food processing (see the chapter Leather, fur and footwear). Tannins are derived from a variety of tree barks around the world by open diffusion or percolation.

In addition to tannin, many barks are harvested for their ingredients, which include witch hazel and camphor. Witch hazel is a lotion extracted by steam distillation of twigs from the North American witch hazel tree. Similar processes are used in harvesting camphor from branches of the camphor laurel tree.

Tree fluids

The third major process includes the harvesting of resin and latex from the inner bark and oeloresins and syrup from the sapwood. Resin is found especially in the pine. It oozes out of bark wounds to protect the tree from infection. To commercially obtain resin, the worker must wound the tree by peeling off a thin layer of the bark or piercing it.

Most resins thicken and harden when exposed to the air, but some trees produce liquid resins or oleoresins, such as turpentine from conifers. Severe wounds are made into one side of the tree wood to harvest turpentine. The turpentine runs down the wound and is collected and hauled to storage. Turpentine is distilled into turpentine oil with a colophony or rosin residue.

Any milky sap exuded by plants is called latex, which in rubber trees is formed in the inner bark. Latex gatherers tap the rubber trees with spiral cuts around the trunk without damaging the inner bark. They catch the latex in a bowl (see the chapter Rubber industry). The latex is kept from hardening either through coagulation or with an ammonium hydroxide fixative. Acid wood smoke in the Amazon or formic acid is used to coagulate raw rubber. Crude rubber is then shipped for processing.

In the early spring in the cold climates of the United States, Canada, and Finland, a syrup is harvested from the sugar maple tree. After the sap starts to run, spouts are placed into drilled holes in the trunk through which sap runs either into buckets or through plastic piping for transport to storage tanks. The sap is boiled to 1/40th of its original volume to produce maple syrup. Reverse osmosis may be used to remove much of the water prior to evaporation. The concentrated syrup is cooled and bottled.

Hazards and Their Prevention

The hazards related to producing bark and sap for processing are natural exposures, injuries, pesticide exposures, allergies and dermatitis. Natural hazards include snake and insect bites and the potential for infection where vector-borne or water-borne diseases are endemic. Mosquito control is important on plantations, and pure water supply and sanitation is important at any tree farm, grove or plantation.

Much of the work with bark stripping, cutting and tapping involves the possibility of cuts, which should be promptly treated to prevent infection. Hazards exist in the manual cutting of trees, but mechanized methods of clearing as well as planting have reduced injury hazards. The use of heat for “smoking” rubber and evaporating oils from bark, resins and sap expose workers to burns. Hot maple syrup exposes workers to scalding injuries during boiling. Special hazards include working with draught animals or vehicles, tool-related injuries and the lifting of bark or containers. Bark stripping machines expose workers to potentially serious injury as well as to noise. Injury control techniques are needed, including safe work practices, personal protection and engineering controls.

Pesticide exposures, especially to the herbicide sodium arsenite on rubber plantations, are potentially hazardous. These exposures can be controlled by following manufacturer recommendations for storage, mixing and spraying.

Allergic proteins have been identified in natural rubber sap, which has been associated with latex allergy (Makinen-Kiljunen et al. 1992). Substances in pine resin and sap can cause allergic reactions in persons sensitive to balsam-of-Peru, colophony or turpentine. Resins, terpenes and oils may cause allergic contact dermatitis in workers handling unfinished wood. Dermal exposures to latex, sap and resin should be avoided through safe work practices and protective clothing.

The disease hypersensitivity pneumonitis is also known as “maple stripper’s lung”. It is caused by exposure to the spores of Cryptostroma corticate, a black mould that grows under the bark, during bark removal from stored maple. Progressive pneumonitis may also be associated with sequoia and cork oak woods. Controls include eliminating the sawing operation, wetting the material during debarking with a detergent and ventilation of the debarking area.

 

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