Collection of wood quality data by X-ray densitometry: a case study with three southern pines
X-ray densitometry is a technique often used in tree growth and wood quality studies to incrementally measure density (specific gravity) along a radial strip of wood. Protocols for this technique vary between laboratories because of differences in species, equipment, tree age, and other factors. Here, the application of X-ray densitometry is discussed in terms of a case study specific to the southern pines, whereby loblolly (Pinus taeda L), longleaf (Pinus palustris Mill.), and slash (Pinus elliottii Engelm.) pine wood cores were analyzed using an automated system. Objectives of this study included an assessment of the potential impacts on wholecore wood quality data from wood core extraction and use of two different demarcation methods (threshold and inflection point) for the earlywood–latewood transition. Wood core extraction before X-ray densitometry showed minimal impact on the shapes of individual ring profiles, and whole-core wood quality data were essentially unchanged. An assessment of the inflection point method employed for determining the earlywood–latewood transition point in the X-ray densitometry data demonstrated that the growth ring profiles for the southern pines are not amenable to polynomial fitting. Indeed, in the southern pines, the earlywood–latewood transitions are as equally abrupt as the latewood–earlywood transitions. Accordingly, a threshold density deemed appropriate to define the onset of a growth ring would be equally appropriate to define the onset of latewood formation.