Phenobois : Phenotyping the physico-chemical properties of wood and the hydraulic properties of trees

Orléans: 2163, avenue de la pomme de pin - CS 40001 Ardon- 45075 ORLEANS
Bordeaux-Cestas: 69, route d'Arcachon 33610 CESTAS
Bordeaux-Pessac: Université Bordeaux 1Bâtiment B2 - RdC Est - Allée Geoffroy St-Hilaire - CS 50023 - 33615 PESSAC
Clermont-Crouël: 5, chemin de Beaulieu 63000 CLERMONT-FERRAND

Phenobois brings together several laboratories and workshops supported by the INRAE: the Val de Loire BioForA Units (Orléans site), the Nouvelle-Aquitaine-Bordeaux BioGéCo Centre (Cestas and Pessac sites) and the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes PIAF Centre (Clermont-Crouël site).

Phenobois is a high-speed platform for assessing wood properties and the hydraulic functioning of plant xylem in studies oncerning: i) the influence of genetic improvement on productivity, the wood quality of forest trees and forest resilience; and ii) the influence of global changes on tree survival and productivity, and on the functioning of forest ecosystems.

Phenobois aims are:

  • To provide research institutions and industry with a common platform describing wood properties to better understand the biological and ecological processes involved in wood development.
  • To understand the environmental and genetic determinants of the variability in wood properties in i) plantation forests and ii) semi-natural forests with little human influence.
  • To identify the mechanisms involved in the adaptation and response of trees to water stress.
  • To provide phenotyping tools to identify new genotypes that perform well in terms of productivity, resistance to abiotic stress and resilience.
Services offer

Phenobois carries out a variety of measurements for the direct or indirect assessment of phenotypic parameters related to the physico-chemical properties of wood and the hydraulic properties of trees:

  • Analysis of the chemical composition of wood: polyphenols, cellulose, lignins, hemicelluloses, and soluble and structural sugars; wood ash can also be analysed.
  • Biomass quality assessments: saccharification potential
  • X-ray microdensitometry: density variations within growth rings
  • Physical and mechanical measurements: density, shrinkage, stiffness, colour
  • Micro and macroscopic studies of wood tissue
  • X-ray microtomography: 3D structure and operation of the vascular system
  • Cavitation vulnerability studies
  • In vivo observation of embolism
  • Indirect assessment of the chemical composition of wood by near-infrared spectrometry

The platform’s laboratories and workshops also have partially automated processing lines for plant samples (sawing, grinding, separating), making it possible to achieve a high throughput. Analyses vary according to the technology used; from one hundred to tens of thousands of samples can be processed each year.

Over the last four years, more than 10 French research units and 30 international universities or institutes have used our various facilities to describe wood properties and plant resistance to drought.


Sixteen permanent staff divided among the platform’s 4 sites ensure quality technical expertise and participate in user training.

Operations and data access

All project submissions are examined by the Management Committee and are then redirected to the Local Correspondents according to the technologies involved. Requests are evaluated according to scientific interest, coherence with the platform's missions, technical feasibility and the potential burden placed on the service (availability of staff, equipment, premises). Each applicant receives feedback on the project from the Steering Committee or Local Correspondentswithn in case of acceptance, an estimate of the cost and the time required to complete the project. If necessary, the Management Committee may proposecollaboration or suggest a reorientation. In the event of a conflict of interest, ethical problem or breach of the law, a project may be rejected.

For accepted projects, Phenobois ensures the availability of trained and competent personnel, proposes high-performance and well-maintained equipment, provides technical assistance and sometimes scientific expertise, carries out the analyses or trains the users in analysis procedures, provides information on the progress of the project and supports users in the use of their data.

Users are trained by qualified technicians and engineers in the use of the equipment and the implementation of protocols specific to the various techniques, in compliance with the safety rules in the laboratories. The PhenoBois platform adheres to a quality management system (QMS), which ensures complete traceability of the projects, samples and experiments and guarantees high-quality results.

Researchers from the local units specialised in the platform's fields of study also help users to interpret the data acquired during their stay at the site, draft publications and develop new partnerships.

Data access and cost

Access is defined in days. A typical project requires a stay of 5 to 10 days (1 to 2 weeks) depending on the technology(ies) implemented. The number of samples processed during a typical stay is around 100 samples for microdensitometry, 150 for saccharification potential, 120 for chemical analyses with or without a NIRS calibration model, 100 for cavitation resistance, and 8 for optical techniques and microtomography.

The project stay may be longer if new methodologies are required.

Access cost for public institutions, is 370 euros per day (or 1,850 € per week), not including the applicant's travel expenses.

Access cost for private institutions also includes platform staff time devoted to the project during the stay (1,260 € for 1 technician working week and 2,100 € for 1 research engineer working week, on average). The applicant's travel expenses are not included.



Phenobois provides the scientific community with a wide range of cutting-edge equipment as well as innovative and sometimes unique prototype equipment (Cavi1000, for example). The following table presents the main instruments available for experiments.

Equipement GénoBois

Modification date: 16 August 2023 | Publication date: 23 March 2018 | By: Nathalie Boizot (INRAE)