Thermo-hygro-mechanical (THM)-densified wood is more resistant to colonisation and degradation by brown-rot fungi than untreated wood. Colonisation and degradation by soft-rot fungi was investigated in treated Norway spruce (Picea abies) and treated beech (Fagus sylvatica) to assess their suitability for utility class 4. Three different treatments were applied: thermal-hygro (TH) treatment, mechanical densification and THM-treatment including densification and post-treatment under saturated steam conditions at different temperatures. For comparison, additional wood specimens were treated with two concentrations of a chromium-copper (CC) wood preservative. After 32 weeks incubation, weight losses induced by soft-rot fungi were lowest in wood treated with CC. Highest weight losses were recorded from TH-treated wood, in which soft-rot erosion attack (type 2) was exclusively observed in spruce. In comparison to controls, significantly lower weight losses by soft-rot fungi were recorded in THM-treated spruce wood, but no such differences were found in beech wood. Microscopical examination showed that in THM-treated wood of spruce, soft-rot type 1 commenced from the outer wood surfaces and cavity formation was not found in deeper regions of the wood samples. THM-treated beech wood was more susceptible to degradation than that of spruce which can be partly explained by the higher syringyl lignin content in beech wood, which is more susceptible to all kinds of degradation. Hyphal colonisation and soft-rot was facilitated within deeper regions of beech wood mainly in the non-occluded lumina of parenchyma cells in multiseriate xylem rays. It can be concluded that TH-treated spruce wood and THM-treated beech wood is susceptible to soft-rot and therefore inappropriate for utility class 4.
©2008 by Walter de Gruyter Berlin New York