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A natural ancestral saltwater treatment to modify the technological properties of date palms

Elaieb M.T., Namsi A., Tella M., Senecal G., Thévenon M.F., Candelier K.. 2018. Bois et Forêts des Tropiques, 338 : p. 15-28.

DOI: 10.19182/bft2018.338.a31676

Palm plantations are of great socio-economic and ecological importance in Tunisia. They currently contain some three million trees that produce significant supplies of wood for the craft and furniture industries. In the past, date palm wood was also used as structural mate-rial. Its poor technological properties were improved by immersing in natural saltwater the freshly felled palm tree trunks. This was an ancestral practice in the Maghreb area, but it has now disappeared and information on the different parameters involved in this kind of process is scarce. The aim of this study was to assess the main technological properties of Phoenix dactylifera L. wood when preserved by salting. Wood samples collected in southern Tunisia from two common date palm cultivars (Kentichi and Deglet Noor) ranging from 40 to 50 years in age, untreated and preserved by salting in the Chot Djérid lake, were used for the experiments. The densities, mechanical properties, resistance to fungus and termites and chemical compositions of the untreated (control) and saltwater-treated palm wood samples were determined. The results showed a significant increase in the air-dried density of palm wood after immersion in saltwater. Saltwater treatment also greatly improved the Modulus of Rupture of palm wood perpendicular and parallel to the fibres. Both untreated and saltwater-treated palm wood appeared to be sensitive to termite attacks, but the treated palm wood seemed to be more toxic to the termites. Extractives, lignin and cellulose contents were slightly more abundant in the control samples, while hemicelluloses were more abundant in the treated samples. The analyses of mineral composition also provided some explanation of the improvement in palm wood performance after this natural preservation process.

Mots-clés : phoenix dactylifera; bois; propriété technologique; préservation du bois; eau saline; termitidae; tunisie

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