THE TREE THAT WILL SAVE THE WORLD … MAYBE WE EXAGGERATE BUT IT IS A VEGETABLE HERO!
The truth is that the title is exaggerated but we have not spared in making it noticeable because today we are going to talk about a tree that is really a marvel for many ecosystems. Besides having a showy flowering, it has great virtues for the ecosystem that surrounds it, that is… us! Let’s see what makes it so special.
Agriculture aims to produce food for humanity. There’s no doubt. But there are another series of crops that do not provide food directly but do provide resources that we need for our lives. Some very important are forest crops, mainly dedicated to the creation of biomass as an energy resource and / or primary resource such as wood. But this is only a single added value of a forest stand. There are many more. Let’s see a few.
FIRST OF ALL, THE MOST DIRECT RESOURCE, WOOD.
We are all clear that wood is the main reason for forest crops. The current problem is that we consume more than we can regenerate, without taking into account the imbalance in the ecosystems at the time of logging, even if restocking is carried out later.
THE ROLE OF CO2 CAPTURE.
We always keep in mind that trees consume CO2 for their metabolic processes, which entails an adjustment of the levels of this compound on the planet. Unfortunately, our rate of carbon dioxide production coupled with the constant deforestation of large masses of trees (Brazil for example) means that the capture of CO2 is insufficient today, to maintain the proper balance.
CONTAINMENT OF DESERTIFICATION.
There is a very clear concept and that is that the soil supports the tree and it clings to it through its roots, although this support is reciprocal. The tree also supports the soil. Forest stands literally “hold” the land against desertification. They maintain the soil, both in structure and composition, so we must take the plant-soil set almost as a symbiosis. Massive deforestation, in turn, incurs a great loss of soil at all levels and we must take this into account.
RESISTANCE TO PESTS AND DISEASES
It is one of the requirements pursued in any crop, whether agricultural or forestry. Rustic species that better withstand attacks by pests and diseases are sought, as far as possible, so that they do not entail an exorbitant cost that they come to fruition. The same happens with forest crops. Sensitive plants require an enormous effort to keep them protected against these attacks apart from possible contamination with the products applied for their control.
PAULOWNIA TOMENTOSA MEETS THE REQUIREMENTS MORE THAN
The reason for remembering a little what surrounds a forest crop is simply to talk about the main species in this article ( Paulownia tomentosa ), since it not only perfectly fulfills each of the tasks of a forest crop but also exceeds to many species in each of the virtues that we seek in forest crops.
First of all, a high quality wood is obtained from Paulownia tomentosa . It is not the best but still has very good properties in hardness, grain and color (being this pale). Surfboards are made with this wood, houses or laminated wood among other things. It is also used in many oriental musical instruments, since it is very important in countries such as Japan, China or Korea.
All trees capture CO2 but this one does it in a brutal way. Thanks to its large leaf area and its accelerated metabolism, it manages to capture much more CO2 than most existing tree species .
There are sources that speak of up to 10 times normal. We cannot corroborate it but it should not be. This accelerated metabolism is also associated with a high biomass production, so it could be used for energy purposes thanks to its rapid growth. It is already proven that it is a profitable wood. Capturing CO2 at these levels is interesting in urban areas
In the case of Paulownia tomentosa and other species of the genus Paulownia ( P. fortunei, P. elongata) , just the opposite occurs. It is a tree that is used in soil phytoremediation .
It absorbs pollutants from the soil, its hard and deep roots remove any soil, even poor, conferring structure and extracting nutrients from where apparently there are none. It does not degrade the soil or leave it malnourished. What’s more, it recovers organic matter from degraded and nutrient-poor soils.
Its strong and deep roots also provide high resistance to fire, being a species that can recover on its own after a fire. And as if that were not enough, it hardly suffers from pests and diseases so maintenance in this sense is practically nil.
And as if that were not enough, in addition to the forest properties, it is not an ugly tree and its purple flowering may remind a bit of that of jacarandas in spring. What else do we want!