An Overview of the ICFR
Based on the Pietermaritzburg campus of the University of KwaZulu-Natal, the Institute for Commercial Forestry Research (ICFR) was established in 1984. The ICFR evolved from the Wattle Research Institute (WRI) and is presently the only privately funded forestry research institute in South Africa. Our focus is on conducting research founded on scientific excellence, which provides knowledge and technology aimed at growing and managing trees in a profitable, sustainable and responsible way. In this way we strive to contribute to the competitiveness of our members, in the South African forestry sector.
The ICFR currently employ 54 staff, most of whom are based in Pietermaritzburg, with regional offices in Zululand and Sabie, to facilitate research across the main forestry areas of the country. This small complement of people represents a wide range of expertise and skills of key relevance to the Institute and our members.
Current ICFR Members include Forestry South Africa (FSA), Komatiland Forest Limited (KLF), Masonite (Africa) Limited, Merensky, Mimosa Extract Company (MEC), Mondi South Africa Limited, NCT Forestry Co-operative Limited (NCT), PG Bison, Sappi Forests, SiyaQhubeka Forests, TWK Agriculture Limited and York Timbers Limited.
The ICFR strives to position itself to provide relevant, high-value research and knowledge products to a wide range of stakeholders in the South African forestry sector. Research at the ICFR is currently conducted through four multidisciplinary programmes:
- Tree Improvement Research
- Re-establishment Research
- Sustainable Forest Productivity Research
- Spatial Technologies
Tree Improvement Research
Tree Improvement Research focuses on two initiatives; Acacia
tree improvement, and the investigation and improvement of Eucalyptus
species, with common objectives:
- To selectively improve Acacia mearnsii (black wattle), and various Eucalyptus and Corymbia species, by developing and implementing appropriate breeding strategies for each of the species; and
- To produce improved germplasm of these species, through classical and other breeding methods.
Techniques developed in the breeding programmes include vegetative propagation by grafting, cutting and tissue culture; initiation of flowering using environmental and chemical inducers; seed orchard management techniques for optimum production of improved seed, both for the continuation of breeding and for commercial purposes; the production of sterile black wattle through either gamma irradiation or by production of a triploid variety; and non-destructive sampling methods for various wood properties.
This programme investigates and quantifies the effect of different silvicultural practices, as well as environmental and physiographic factors, on the survival, growth and uniformity of planting stock. The knowledge is then used to develop cost-effective recommendations that minimise stress during re-establishment, while maximising survival, growth and uniformity, for a range of sites, species and management objectives, within commercial plantations. Most of the commercial tree species currently grown in South Africa are investigated, assessing aspects of regeneration during the re-establishment phase. In addition, the longer-term consequences of early silvicultural practices are also evaluated.
The Programme currently comprises five projects; Vegetation Management, Coppice Management, Growth and Yield, Pine and Eucalypt Regeneration, and Integrated Pest Management.
Sustainable Forest Productivity Research
This programme looks at the impacts of commercial forestry, and their associated operations, on site quality and the effect of these impacts on tree productivity. Operations generally considered to have the greatest impact on sites, are those involving machinery (mainly harvesting operations), biomass removal, harvest residue management and fertilisation. The impact of these operations on site properties, the understanding of processes that drive interactions between impacts, and the resultant long-term effect on tree productivity are researched. The key research focus areas of the programme are the management impacts on soil physical properties; site nutrient balance and dynamics; residue management impacts on site and tree; and long-term site monitoring.
The ICFR has generated, and continue to generate, significant qualities of data through field trials and experiments. The data are organised into reliable and easily-accessible databases for further addition through re-analysis using new techniques, and combining datasets from different trial series to address issues at a regional or national level. These databases provide a valuable information system for ICFR staff and its members.
The ICFR also provides a custodian role for climate data on behalf of our members, and our current dataset consists of a daily rainfall and temperature for approximately 800 weather stations located within the forestry areas of the country from 1950 to 2007, and is stored in a user-friendly, stand-alone application.
Three main research areas also form part of this programme; forestry site classification, pest and disease modelling and climate change.
In addition to the directed research conducted at the ICFR, the Institute also serves an important co-ordinating and supporting role for industry-level initiatives. These include the following:
Knowledge is without a doubt one of the ICFR's biggest assets and resides in our staff. Managing the generation, application and transfer of this knowledge in a way that is aligned to and meets stakeholder needs, and therefore provides value is an important role. Key aspects of this function include regular stakeholder engagement and interaction, e.g. through our biennial Forest Science Symposium, field days, as well as regular workshops and meetings. We strive to transfer knowledge and technology through a range of relevant mechanisms including research publications and peer-reviewed papers. Members can access ICFR publications at www.icfr.ukzn.ac.za/publications
More details on the ICFR can be found on our ICFR website (www.icfr.ukzn.ac.za