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Post: “Successful establishment leads to successful plantations.”

Successful

“Successful establishment leads to successful plantations.”

Time and resources are limited in most forestry companies today, however investing in high-quality plant genetics and good silvicultural practices, is an investment that is sure to pay off. With most species being coppiced, focus and effort when planting can determine the success of the compartment for at least the next two rotations.

There are several key boxes to tick when establishing forestry plants. With good planning and following these steps – foresters and contractors can set the platform for a successful establishment and yield.
 
Forward Planning
As the saying goes – “Failing to plan is planning to fail.’  Plan well in advance, to ensure we have time to grow your specific requirements.

As a rule of thumb:

  • Eucalypt seedlings & clonal hybrids require 3-5 months.
  • Pine seedlings & hybrids require 4-7 months to grow field ready plants.

 

Site Species Selection
Know your site – what is the potential or risks of the site? Consider rainfall, soil moisture potential and depth, frost, snow, wind, and pest risks? What is the market being targeted? Selecting the most suitable species or clonal hybrids for your site will determine the yield and income potential.
Sutherland Seedlings has a site-species summary table to assist with the decision.

Genetics
Foresters have a wide range of options available to them. The adoption of clonal hybrid plants has significantly improved yields in South Africa but must be carefully matched to the site being planted. If seedlings are ordered, ask for seed from the most advanced generation orchards. Sutherland Seedlings aims to plant seed with the highest genetic gain available.

Sutherland Seedlings is a member of the Hybrid Clonal Consortium, with an active breeding program on clonal hybrids. We also source quality seed from leading industry players in South Africa.

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Container System
Container options include 128 and 98 loose filled trays (such as Unigrow plastic inserts) or Ellepots (paper pots). Each season, the proportion of orders placed in Ellepots has increased, thanks to the survival and logistical gains the system provides. Trials have shown up to a 30% biomass gain on harsh sites when planted with Ellepots, so it can be considered an insurance policy against adverse planting conditions.
 
Plant Quality
High-quality seedlings that are healthy, disease-free, and well-suited to the site conditions significantly enhance successful establishment. It is important to take seedlings on time, with the correct leaf to root ratio. Stay in contact with your nursery to track the progress of your plant order. Sutherland Seedlings comply with a strict Plant Quality Index and only allow the highest quality seedlings to be dispatched from the nursery.

Dispatch & Holding Plants
Most plants are dispatched in trays and may need to be held for a period. Significant effort goes into managing the moisture levels of the plants when in the nursery, and plant quality and root health can quickly deteriorate if not managed correctly.

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The following points should be considered when holding plants:

  • Keep trays off the ground, to maintain air pruning of the roots at the base of the tray.
  • Ideally, plants should be protected from prevailing winds, preferably with shade cloth.
  • Plants should not be kept in direct sun or in high levels of shade. Ideally, 20-40% shading is best.
  • Irrigate as and when needed. Plants should be checked twice a day (morning & afternoon) and only irrigated when needed. As a rule of thumb, irrigations are likely needed every 1-2 days in summer and every 2-3 days in winter. But check the moisture levels of the substrate in the trays before irrigating. Sutherland Seedlings has a moisture scale that can be used for scheduling irrigation in a holding nursery.
  • When irrigating, irrigate thoroughly and uniformly so you do not need to repeat the irrigation soon thereafter. If the leaves stay wet for lengthy periods, leaf diseases will become a problem.
  • Plant as soon as possible. Plant quality will deteriorate with time, aim towards a Just in Time (JIT) planting schedule, as is done in the vegetable farming industry, where plants are planted within 24-48 hours of receiving them. This will reduce transplant shock and improve survival.

 

Site Preparation
Adequate site preparation through clearing, pitting, and weed control helps create an optimal environment for seedling growth. Planting pits must be prepared before the planting operation, with a minimum size of 10cm x 10cm x 15cm deep.

Planting Technique
Proper planting techniques, including correct depth, spacing, and timing, ensure the seedlings have the best chance to capture the pit and grow. If planting manually, toolbox talks each morning emphasizing the importance of not J-rooting plants, is recommended. Avoid air pockets around the plug or Ellepot as they will inhibit early root growth.
 
Water Management
Plants should be watered within an hour of planting. Watering the pit provides moisture to the plant, but also serves to settle the soil around the plant plug, so there is a good soil to substrate interface.
The use of hydrogels is beneficial if planting conditions are adverse.

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Protection from Pests and Diseases
Discuss prevention options with your chemical expert to prevent damage from insects such as cutworm, white grub, etc which could lead to secondary disease pressure. Timely application is important. Due to the cost of blanking operations, the use of systemic insecticides, slow-release fertilizers and biological control agents is increasingly being used at planting.

Monitoring and Maintenance
Regular scouting of the compartment is important to pick up problems quickly. Should blanking be required, doing so timeously is important to maintain uniformity and the compartment yield. Follow-up chemical treatments may be needed, and competition from weeds must be managed until canopy closure.
 
By paying attention to these factors, the likelihood of successful forestry plant establishment can be significantly increased.
 
For more information, please contact your Sutherland Seedlings representative to discuss your requirements. admin@sutherlandseedlings.co.za / 0398341953 / 063 742 8263
More information can also be found on our website: www.sutherlandseedlings.co.za

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Contact: Sutherland Seedlings

Source: Forestry Newsletter – December 2023

 

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