ISLAMABAD   -   Pakistan needs to launch a sustainable agroforestry plan in view of the fast-shrinking rainforests to provide a quality alternative to rainforest wood.

It is notable here that about 75% of globally traded logs and hardwood come from rainforests, but due to large-scale deforestation, they are shrinking fast.

Paulownia tree plantation can be a preferred choice for Paki­stan in promoting agroforestry as the international market of solid paulownia wood is $650 to $880 per cubic meter. More than 15 varieties of this tree are found in the world, some of which are used for both timber and ornamental purposes. Few of its hybrid timber varieties are solely grown for getting quality wood. Also called the aluminium of timber, paulownia is abun­dantly found in many countries.

Dr. Muhammad Umar Fa­rooq, Director Rangeland Re­search Institute of National Agricultural Research Centre (NARC), Islamabad, during an interview with WealthPK said that paulownia was an agro­forestry, environment-friendly tree and can be grown in coast­al to subtropical zones. “This hardwood tree grows straight upward and is resistant to com­bustion and termite attacks. Its timber is too light in weight, unblemished and extremely strong. Due to its light colour, it is ideal to stain in almost all colour varieties. It can be sea­soned in the open air without kilns. It never deforms, warps, or gets cracked but remains silky smooth. All these quali­ties make it the darling of fur­niture manufacturers.”

He said the tree becomes ful­ly mature after 12 years of its plantation, and can be grown by both seed and root sucker. He said that it was brought to Pakistan in 1990 for research and its adaptability to the lo­cal environment. “Now, some farmers are planting it but on a very small scale,” he said, add­ing a plan was afoot to grow the plant on a large scale to not only improve environment but also benefit the farmers.

During a discussion with WealthPK, Advocate Nadeem Ahmad Khan, owner of Kav­era (banana) tissue culture nursery farm in Pattoki on the outskirts of Lahore, said: “I im­ported the seed of paulownia 9501 variety and sown it in my farm in December 2021. With­in one week, 80% of seeds were germinated in the con­trolled shed. It is the first-ever introduction of this tree on a commercial basis in Pakistan. After one and a half month, its seedlings are ready to become a plant at a proper place.”

Nadeem Ahmad said as the seed was too expensive, its tissue culture was success­fully tried in the banana tissue culture lab in Tando Soomro, Sindh. “Now, after successful tissue culture in a local lab of Pattoki, about 1,100 plants are ready to be sown.”

He said if a person buys the plants in bulk, he charged Rs350 per plant, otherwise, a single plant is sold for Rs500. “If 420 plants are sown in a hectare, after six years, 280 cubic meters or 9,885 cubic feet of globally valuable tim­ber can be collected. One cubic meter of timber weighs 310 kilogramme.”

Nadeem Ahmad said honey­bees also like to suck the nectar of paulownia flowers to pro­duce qualitative honey, adding about 500 kilogrammes of hon­ey can be collected if paulownia was grown over one hectare of land. He said paulownia is an environment-friendly plant and absorbs carbon dioxide 6% more than other trees. “Under-cropping can also be done in a paulownia forest for getting fodder for livestock, especially sheep and goats.”

He maintained that industri­ally, paulownia is widely used to manufacture multiple items, including surfboards, shipbuild­ing material, aviation interi­ors, furniture, wooden houses, almirah, home panelling, sports items, music instruments, wooden ware, boats, plywood, caravans, etc. It is also ideal for furniture linings and veneers. Nadeem Ahmad called for intro­ducing non-invasive varieties of paulownia to farmers. He said agriculture and forest depart­ments should promote farming of this tree on a large scale.