Now Sappi has found another novel application for Valida: protecting fruit tree buds from frost damage.
The US produces more than 15 million tons of deciduous fruit crops, including cherries, peaches, and apples, valued at more than $11 billion annually. Frost damage happens in the early spring when the fruit buds are just starting to form—a sudden drop in overnight temperature can cause significant damage.
By spraying the trees with a thin layer of Valida, the buds are protected from sporadic temperature drops and potential frost damage. After the buds are more developed and temperatures rise, the natural-cellulose Valida can be harmlessly washed away.
Use of natural, renewable Valida represents a more environmentally friendly method for controlling temperature exposure for farmers.
Valida products are micro- and nanofibrillated cellulose that are manufactured in the Sappi pilot facility in the Netherlands. Valida is made by further processing the cellulose fibers that are commonly used in paper, breaking them down into even smaller components.
The resultant natural material is a pulp that has unique strength and flow properties with the consistency of peanut butter; apply some shear to help the pulp flow.
Sappi collaborated with Washington State University, which developed the spray formula using Valida and conducted a trial in a commercial fruit orchard. The initial work proved successful when the Valida- coated trees showed increased yields per acre compared with uncoated trees.
As a result of this promising work, Dr. Qi Wang, SNA Technology Platform Director, applied for funding from the US Endowment for Forestry and Communities, and Sappi was awarded a development grant to continue research.