Natural forest products, that is, berries, mushrooms and others have many uses. Picking berries and mushrooms offers additional income, natural products can be used in travel services, and they also act as natural nutrient boosters and, for example, help to relieve dry eyes.
– Natural products are raw materials of our forests. Their production and processing have not received as much attention as merchantable wood that is traditionally utilised in the forest sector, says senior scientist Rainer Peltola from the Natural Resources Institute Finland (Luke).
However, natural products are highly involved in Finnish lives. More than half of all Finnish people enjoy picking berries or mushrooms. Digitalisation adds its own spice to this mix.
What are grown in forests – trees or other products?
Natural products are associated with various interests and pressures. For example, as the commercial use of natural berries is increasing, there will be new earning potential, but also conflicts of interest.
– There are forests where concentrating on the production of natural products would be highly reasonable. For example, the production of sap and chaga mushrooms can challenge wood production. This means that landowners can regard natural products as an investment and alternative for wood production, senior researcher Mikko Kurttila says.
Landowners need estimates of income from natural products and related costs, compared with wood production, to support their decision-making processes. Luke has already conducted some research on this theme, and Kurttila says that it will be interesting to see the results of other research institutions.
Wellbeing from natural products
Controlled raw material production of natural products is a precondition of successful productisation. Natural products have many uses. In addition to traditional jams and juices, they are used as nutrient boosters, as well as care and wellness products. These are exactly the high added value products that should be processed in the bioeconomy.
– For example, glucan-containing mushrooms are excellent ingredients for functional food products, and berry extracts help to relieve dry eyes. Travel services can also utilise natural products, Peltola says.
The Non-Timber Forest Products and Bioecomy conference held in Rovaniemi on 28–30 November 2017 focuses on the raw material production and uses of natural products as part of the bioeconomy. Roughly one hundred researchers and other specialists from different parts of the world will take part in the conference. The conference will feature 30 speeches and 29 poster presentations.
Join us in the Twitter using hashtag #NTFP2017.