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Grow young trees directly into ready-made planks

Image credit: Axel Erlandson

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Darko Savic
Darko Savic Aug 23, 2021
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Using metal forms to shape growing trees into ready-made planks.

I imagine tree plantations that produce wooden planks directly as end products. Each cutting gets a metal form placed around it. As the tree grows, the trunk fills the form. Come harvest time, a robot cuts and pulls the planks out of the molds.



Once its canopy was tall enough a fast growing tree species would be encased in a plank-shaped metal form. That way the form doesn't obstruct the tree's access to sunlight. Ideally it would take one season for the trunk to fill the form.
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Creative contributions

What if we controlled the plant's lighting instead

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Samuel Bello
Samuel Bello Aug 23, 2021
I am assuming that the purpose of this idea is to make the plant's trunks easy to convert to lumber by making them grow into straight forms. If that is the purpose of the metal form then it should be possible to create a similar effect by controlling the plant's lighting.

If a plant is placed in a room where it gets a low amount of sunlight, the plant will usually grow towards the place that the sunlight enters the room. Instead of using metal forms that prevent the plant from growing out of the desired shape. The controlled lighting will make the plant grow into the desired shape or pattern. This will make the plant easier to machine into lumber.

The controlled lighting can be achieved by wrapping cellophane materials around some parts of the plants. If this approach is used in a plantation, the cellophane material used should not only be opaque but very reflective. That way the light that a plant is shielded from is reflected to other plants at places they are needed more.

Some of the advantages that cellophane has over a metal form, in this case, is that cellophane is much cheaper. It is also easier to remove or adjust than a metal form. There is less cost and more flexibility in growing the plants into planks.

This system of reflections can also be used to grow more dense forests since the larger trees will not shade smaller ones as in uncontrolled plantations. Even when the smaller plants are shaded from sunlight they can still get some of the light by a series of reflections from the parts that are covered by cellophane.
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Juran2 months ago
The idea is really nice! I would like to see how did you imagine this to work. Until now, I read that sunflowers turn towards the sun and plants grow tall in order to reach for the sunlight between the trees, but how would you make a plant grow, e.g. downwards by just adjusting the lighting with cellophane?

There is also an ecological issue compared to metal. Cellophane is an artificial material and I would not like to use it in natural surroundings. Metal seems reusable, more durable, and more efficient.
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Samuel Bello
Samuel Bello2 months ago
Juran To make a plant grow downward (from a horizontal branch) one will just have to cover the upper parts and the sides of the branch. Basically, you have to cover everywhere except the parts where you want the plant to grow towards.


Just like cellophane, metals are artificial materials. Cellophane is very cheap compared to metals and can be recycled and reused in other places too. Metals are more durable but the cost of production is not commensurate to their usefulness in this case. The cellophane can be easily collected and disposed of. They can also be wrapped again if the tree outgrows the cellophane, unlike metal frames that will maintain the same size and form.


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Juran2 months ago
Samuel Bello Okay, but has anyone ever tried to do the guided plant growth by using the technique you mentioned?
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Darko Savic
Darko Savica month ago
Cool ancient tech https://pbs.twimg.com/media/E_GjdzUXsAcrR2P?format=jpg&name=medium
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