Energy-efficient treatment chamber uses radio frequency waves.

Majid Foolad, center, professor of plant genetics at Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences, among the tomato plants used in his breeding program, with graduate students Mengyuan “Maggie” Jia, left, doctoral degree student in plant biology/plant science, and Jonathan Bonfiglio, right, master's degree student in plant science. Foolad won a $75,000 RAIN grant to commercialize new tomato varieties. Image: Penn State

Majid Foolad, center, professor of plant genetics at Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences, among the tomato plants used in his breeding program, with graduate students Mengyuan “Maggie” Jia, left, doctoral degree student in plant biology/plant science, and Jonathan Bonfiglio, right, master's degree student in plant science. Foolad won a $75,000 RAIN grant to commercialize new tomato varieties. Image: Penn State

Team: Kelli Hoover, John Janowiak

Wood packaging material (WPM), which is widely used throughout commerce, may contain insect pests that could then move internationally in the packaging material. This potential issue represents a threat to forest resources and the domestic wood products industry. The International Plant Protection Convention guidelines state that WPM shipped internationally must be heat treated or fumigated with methyl bromide, but methyl bromide is toxic to workers and contributes to ozone depletion.

Penn State researchers discovered a way to kill destructive pests, such as emerald ash borers and pinewood nematodes, in wood for pallets and other shipping materials. They developed a patent-pending, wood-treatment chamber that heats wood in a unique configuration using radio frequency (RF) waves, making the process more energy efficient than RF alone. RF waves penetrate several meters into wood, while methyl bromide, the current treatment method, does not. This technological innovation has significant ramifications to help control new pest introductions from destroying our valuable forests and urban tree ecosystems, which would help eliminate further multi-billion-dollar economic losses from destructive pests.

The treatment is poised to replace the process of fumigating wood with methyl bromide—a chemical that is being phased out—and help the U.S. wood products industry to retain export markets likely to reject chemical-treated wood, which has sparked increased demand for plastic shipping pallets. About 40 percent of U.S. logs are processed into wooden shipping pallets, so it’s important to the U.S. wood industry that wood packaging continue to be acceptable internationally. If we assume a conservative 5 percent reduction in methyl bromide use in the United States for quarantine and preshipment purposes due to the adoption of the patent-pending RF technology, 81,600 pounds of toxic methyl bromide would not be released into the atmosphere each year.

Funding

USDA NIFA and McIntire-Stennis Appropriations

News

Researchers win funding for new tomatoes, wood packaging pest treatment

Thematic Area

Biologically Based Materials and Products

Office for Research and Graduate Education

Address

217 Agricultural Administration Building
University Park, PA 16802-2600

Office for Research and Graduate Education

Address

217 Agricultural Administration Building
University Park, PA 16802-2600