Radiata, also known as Monteray, Insignis and New Zealand pine is a fast growing softwood tree that responds well to intensive management. Its versatility makes it useful for a wide range of applications and processes.
The timber is generally straight grained, although local conditions, and fast growth can tend to produce spiral grain.
The sapwood which normally makes up the bulk of the wood volume, is pale coloured, while the heartwood is generally pinky-brown. Compared to other pines, there is little contrast in the appearance of the growth rings, which makes the texture relatively even and uniform.
Radiata pine is native to a small coastal area of central California, where it is now a threatened species. However it is now widely spread throughout the Southern Hemisphere, with greatest concerntrations in New Zealand, Australia, Chile, and South Africa. It is commercially cultivated in each of these countries, as well as Spain, France, Argentina, Greece, and India.
The tree grows in a variety of conditions, but especially suits well drained slopes with soils of medium fertility.
New Zealand and Chile have the largest Radiata resources, with both countries having estates approaching 2 million hectares (5 million acres) of renewable, environmentally sustainable, plantation forests.
Both countries enjoy favourable growing conditions for the species, with growing cycles of 25 to 30 years, from planting to maturity. Harvesting of immature trees is common depending on economic returns.
New Zealand tends to manage its plantation trees more intensively, pruning trees to produce a high proportion of higher value clearwood timber.
New Zealand plantation forests have benefited from genetic improvements through selective breeding programs since the 1960s. Early improvements focussed on developing growth and form characteristics. Today the programs concerntrate on specific traits including disease resistance, straight grain, and internodal distance.
Radiata pine timber seasons easily and rapidly at high temperatures (commercially up to 120 degrees C) with medium shrinkage. The use of kilns for drying is common practice in New Zealand, particularly for drying clearwood timber.
The timber is susceptible to staining and decay unless treated promptly. Timber for use in wet or external conditions needs to be chemically treated with preservatives. Significant advances have been made in developing environmentally acceptable treatments by New Zealand Forest Research.
Radiata saws relatively easily. It responds to thin and very sharp cutting edges well, with little dulling effect. Area around knots may tear, but most machining operations, including planing, turning, moulding, and boring generally produce a clean finish. Gluing properties are very satisfactory. The timber possesses good nail-holding characteristics. Screw holding properties are rated as good. It responds well to staining and accepts a wide variety of paints.
Some Common Uses
Radiata has become appreciated for its suitability for a wide range of uses. In the past, before harvest of pruned trees began providing clearwood on a significant scale, the lower grade, unpruned timber was most suitable for low grade applications including: construction, form work, packing cases, paneling , pulp/paper products, pulpwood, building materials, housing construction, fibre board and MDF, and plywood veneers.
More recently as clearwood has become available the range of uses has expanded into higher end uses, including furniture, veneer and mouldings. Accordingly perception and use of radiata has improved, and continues to improve.
Applied technological processes have also provided an extended range of uses. Pacific Hardwood of Tauranga New Zealand uses a process developed by Forest Research to harden radiata, making it ideal for flooring and furniture.
Radiata pine is reported to be steadily growing as a replacement for the more expensive Ponderosa pine and Douglas fir in the United States and Japan.