Forestry in South Africa
Monday, May 16, 2022

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Research : ICFR

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The Institute for Commercial Forestry Research

Providing solutions to the industrial wood plantation sector in southern Africa

The Institute for Commercial Forestry Research (ICFR) is an independent provider of project-based research solutions and other related services in support of forest management for economic, social and environmental benefit in southern Africa.  To achieve desired research project goals the ICFR works closely with other research institutes and universities.

Founded in 1947 as the Wattle Research Institute the ICFR grew with the forestry sector providing important research support; initially to wattle growers and expanding to develop cold tolerant eucalypt planting options and determining the principles of good silviculture needed for both establishment and re-establishment of plantations.  Today the ICFR provides research capability to various funding consortia in two key areas; sustainable production and tree improvement.

Sustainable production

The need to balance the benefits from a forest products sector in South Africa based on wood supplied from plantations with the wider water needs of the country means the plantation resource is now on a finite and fixed land area with between the second and tenth crop being produced from most plantations.  The challenge is that, with each new crop, management practices must adjust to ensure sustainable production.  This means reducing the risks associated with pests and pathogens, adapting to climate change and the impact this will have on both biotic and abiotic risks (such as drought) and maintaining soil production resilience.  The sustainable production research focus at the ICFR serves to meet these challenges.

Tree improvement

Having access to planting stock that is tolerant of key pests and pathogens and can deal with the drought, frost and snow events is obviously important in achieving sustainable production.  As importantly, planting choice also determines market access and yield levels achieved.  For these reasons tree improvement remains a major focus for research and the ICFR continues to contribute to improvement of wattle and eucalypt planting stock.

Current research projects

The ICFR now operates seven research projects addressing sustainable production and tree improvement objectives.  The projects have support from individual funding consortium, each with a minimum three-year funding cycle.  In brief the seven projects are;

  • The eucalypt forest protection project seeks to quantify the impact and develop cost effective management responses to mitigate risks presented by various pests and pathogens. Current research addresses the impact of the Leptocybe gall wasp, whitegrub related losses at planting and the cause and mitigation of post-planting mortality occurring with some temperate eucalypt species.
  • Sirex wood wasp remains an important pest of pine in South Africa and the ICFR continues to contribute to the key control requirements of monitoring and biocontrol releases.
  • Baboon damage impact is the focus of a project that seeks to map the extent of damage in Mpumalanga plantations, the impact of this damage on plantation production and the relationship between baboon population numbers and the degree of damage experienced.
  • The multi-rotation resilience project aims to identify any sites where soils cannot sustain nutrient supply across successive rotations. This involves accelerated nutrient removal experiments and developing a monitoring network measuring changes across rotations under existing management practices.
  • Wattle tree improvement is a project that provides growers with genetically superior planting stock. Current focus of the project includes improved frost hardiness and wattle rust tolerance in addition to higher yields. This project provides the entire improved orchard seed supply in South Africa.
  • The eucalypt breeding base project manages a broad base of eucalypt species to conserve the genetic resource and make it available to provide timeous input for hybrid and advanced generation tree breeding undertaken by members of the project funding consortium.
  • Eucalypt hybrid clones are making an increased contribution to forest plantations in South Africa and the eucalypt hybrid development project aims to provide tested commercial clone panting options that offer known tolerance to biotic and abiotic production risks, improved yields and suitability to multiple round wood markets.
  • Summary of project clients and research leaders:

Project Name
Project Leader
 Wattle Tree Improvement  NCT, NTE, TWK, UCL  Dr Julian Chan
 Eucalypt Base Populations  Mondi, NCT, Sappi, TWK  Nuveshen Naidoo
 Eucalypt Hybrid Development  NCT, TWK  Joel Cele
 Eucalypt Forest Protection  Mondi, NCT, Sappi, TWK  Dr Benice Sivparsad
 Sirex Control  DAFF, FSA  Philip Croft
 Baboon Damage Impact  Sappi, Safcol, York  Dr Ilaria Germishuizen
 Multi-rotation Site Resilience  Mondi, Sappi  Nkosinathi Kaptein

Other services

In addition to these consortia funded research projects the ICFR also offers commercial eucalypt improved orchard seed sales and laboratory services supplying a range of plant and soil analysis.  The ICFR can also undertake short term studies and supply expert opinion.

Contact the ICFR

More details on the ICFR can be found on our website ( or contact us on if you are interested in participating in existing projects by joining funding consortia, initiating new research projects or making use of any other services offered.