How does FPInnovations help prevent alien invasions?

In our global economy, where borders are rigid yet porous and goods flow freely between countries, it is increasingly difficult to prevent external threats or to contain internal ones. So how do we limit our exposure to outside threats and infiltrations, while maintaining a global economy? How do we protect ourselves from tiny — in some cases invisible — alien invaders, be they diseases, insect pests, or other microorganisms? In this case, we are talking specifically about wood pest infestations. For years, FPInnovations has been partnering with different organizations to eliminate or reduce the risk of alien invasions through accidental introductions with the importation or exportation of wood and wood products while still supporting least restrictive international trade and market access.

Lurking danger

“Exotic” may sound magical, mysterious and fascinating, but it’s not always welcomed. When it comes to pest invasions, tiny infiltrators often hitchhike on infested wood products or packaging and travel across borders and into new countries, becoming novel and exotic and sometimes devastating pests in the new environment.

Within the context of global movement, open markets and international trade, it is essential to limit the accidental introduction of non-native or alien species. Even if many species are benign or manageable within their local environments, they may be catastrophic when they travel to different environments. In most cases, it is unknown how pests and pathogens will behave or react within the new setting, creating an unseen and unknown danger to the environment and economy. The impact of such bio-invasions can be far reaching, causing a domino effect that might permanently alter entire native forest ecosystems. Not only can bio-invasions have devastating environmental consequences, they can have economic ones as well. The economic impacts and costs of managing forest diseases or pest outbreaks can be millions, sometimes billions of dollars, and trade can be impacted through quarantines and restrictions. Prevention is the most economical and efficient means of managing alien invasive species.

FPInnovations’ role in phytosanitary regulations

FPInnovations alien invasions
The picture shows our inoculation experiment of a known tree pathogen in fresh log to help our understanding of true potential threat of different fungi in trees compared to insects and other pests, their survival and transmissibility through wood processing and following a treatment. The experiment is also to assist development and verification of detection and monitoring tools for pathogens utilizing genomics.

Since the 1990s, FPInnovations has had an important role in the making of, and compliance to phytosanitary regulations, not just in Canada, but across the world. In particular, FPInnovations conducted research on treatments to kill pine wood nematodes and their vectors to allow trade of wood with Europe. The research lead to a 56°C/30 min heat treatment schedule that was later adopted by the world through the International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC) as one of the main treatments for wood packaging and is often applied to other wood products. Since then, FPInnovations has been collaborating with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), Canadian Forest Service (CFS), provincial governments, Canadian Lumber Standards Accreditation Board (CLSAB), Canada Wood, Global Affairs, and other organizations to maintain market access for wood products and to meet international phytosanitary obligations under the IPPC.

The IPPC regulations that are most relevant to the wood products industry include the International Standards for Phytosanitary Measures No. 39 (ISPM 39) on the International movement of wood, and No. 15 (ISPM 15) on Regulation of wood packaging material in international trade. The ISPM 15 standard, allows for two treatments: heat using kilns (56°C/30 min) or using dielectric heating (60°C/1 min) as well as fumigation using sulphuryl fluoride or methyl bromide following specific guidelines. Methyl bromide was the most widely used fumigant, however it is now banned for use in Canada and is being phased out worldwide as it is recognized as a cause of ozone depletion.

In collaboration with the CFIA, FPInnovations, an accredited agency, conducts audits and helps to implement heat treatment programs. FPInnovations has also provided technical and scientific data to help develop and elaborate a set of options for heat treatment to meet IPPC requirements. The process, PI-07, was preapproved, and later became part CFIA’s Technical Heat Treatment Guidelines and Operating Conditions Manual.

Adaptation to new technologies

Wood used to always be dried in batches where a load goes in wet, is dried, and then removed before another load goes in. In the last few years, continuous drying kilns (CDK) have been developed where wood goes in one end wet and comes out the other end dry. This led to questions on how to apply the PI-07 process to ensure that heat treatment requirements are met. Specifically, how can you ensure each portion of the wood is exposed to 56°C for minimum of 30 min (56/30)?

Continuous drying kilns (CDK)

The main differences in relation to heat treatment in continuous kilns when compared to batch kilns is that lumber packages are continuously moving throughout the kiln and are being exposed to different drying conditions. Different push rates can be independently used for each track and consequently, lumber packages are exposed to different heat treatment conditions and different times. The duration of heat treatment must consider push rates and location of temperature sensors.

The particular difficulty for assessing whether lumber packages have complied with heat treatment requirements is experienced during a start-up, malfunction or shut down (planned or unplanned). Under those circumstances, depending on their specific locations when the malfunction or shut down has occurred, certain packages may have not been heat treated. A detailed procedure is therefore necessary for re-starting the kiln to ensure that packages that had not been treated before the shutdown will remain in the kiln long enough to satisfy heat treatment requirements, and the lumber packages that have been heat treated will not be over-treated which can cause over-drying and potentially affect the quality of the lumber at the end of the drying process.

So, in 2018, FPInnovations was mandated by CLSAB and financed by the CFIA to determine a method that ensures that wood dried by the continuous drying method was still being heated to proper temperatures to abide by the PI-07 process.

Additionally, collaborative research and data developed by several international groups led to the world-wide adoption of microwave/radio frequency heating (dielectric heating) and its official listing in the ISPM -15 annex of approved treatments in 2013. These treatments require wood to be exposed to 60°C for 1 minute throughout. Work is needed to develop this technology for commercial scale use and to make it available to industry as it will open possibilities for treatment of logs, chips in batches, or sawn products in a continuous line. FPInnovations is monitoring development of the technology. FPInnovations also participates in research on potential new fumigants to replace methyl bromide.

What’s next?

With conventional heating not always feasible from an economic, material tolerance, or time sensitivity perspective (and with methyl bromide being phased out and banned), much of the ongoing international research activity has been devoted to finding new phytosanitary treatment options and management strategies. FPInnovations has been involved in several international initiatives looking at the efficacy of these technologies, at the development of treatment schedules, and at incorporating them in new or existing phytosanitary standards.

Areas of research in which FPInnovations is involved are:

  • Evaluating the effectiveness of potential new fumigants: most recently ethane dinitrile (EDN), one of the most promising new fumigants to replace methyl bromide.
  • Using a systems approach for phytosanitation which aims at recognizing that multiple steps in wood processing are themselves effective in eliminating pests.
  • Addressing management and understanding of contaminant pests
  • Understanding the true potential threat of fungal organisms (diseases) that can be found on wood products in trade. Many organisms carried on wood will never cause disease. Understanding the risk these organisms pose may prevent unnecessary regulation/trade disputes.
  • Makers of wood pellets have recently been wondering if monitoring the temperature of the air in the dryer is enough to ensure they are properly following PI-07. FPInnovations is looking into monitoring the temperature in the deepest part of the wood through sensors to determine if air temperature is an accurate indicator of wood temperature.
  • In the 1990s, a process was introduced to ensure that all wood being exported is clean. The process involved heating the core of the wood at 56°C for 30 minutes during the drying and treatment process. New European requirements are now asking for some wood species to be treated to at 56°C for 40 minutes. FPInnovations is providing recommendations to CFIA to help address these potential changes.
  • The European Union has put forward new requirements for veneer treatment. In addition to what is already regulated (all softwood species), veneer under 6 mm from several hardwood species must also be treated before export. FPInnovations looked at the efficacy of the industrial veneer production process in phytosanitation and the equivalency to heating veneers at 56°C for 30 minutes to support NRCan’s efforts to remove certification requirements for exporting thin wood veneers to Europe.
  • FPInnovations has also collaborated on three projects (including the BioSAFE and Taiga projects) led by the University of British Columbia’s forest pathology group (Hamelin Lab) and funded by Genome Canada, Genome BC, Genome Quebec, NRCan, CFIA, and others that look at utilizing genomics for developing advanced pathogen and pest detection and monitoring tools. FPInnovations is currently assessing the efficacy of some of these detection tools in infected logs.

For more information, contact Adnan Uzunovic, Senior Scientist at, or Angela Dale, Scientist, at

Leave a comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.