Forest Management

Forest management of fast-growing industrial wood plantations requires application of sound business principles and good forestry technology, to ensure a sustainable, value-adding and profitable wood supply is available, for the manufacture of diverse and globally competitive forest products. This is challenging from plantations that form part of a mosaic of land use and are part of a wider rural development.

Research in this area encompasses the technical aspects of best practice in forestry operations and their integration, to ensure a sustainable supply of wood that is environmentally appropriate, socially beneficial and economically viable. Improved efficiency in the supply chain is critical to support the forestry sector remaining competitive in an increasingly global market place for forest products. Research projects are focused on specific technical aspects, and also on improving their integration across the forestry supply chain.

Research Projects

Vegetation Management

Management of vegetation in plantations of all commercially grown timber species in South Africa is probably the most important of the silvicultural operations during re establishment in terms of the potential to improve tree growth and yield. The use of ecologically acceptable and cost-effective vegetation management techniques, together with the optimum timing of these operations, is particularly important during tree establishment (between planting and canopy closure).

Coppice Management

Eucalypt stands can be re-established using coppice; often at considerably lower cost per hectare than replanting. However, this must provide production comparable to that obtained from re-planting, otherwise yield loss and growing cost impacts can make this option uneconomic. Research in this project investigates factors affecting the preservation and management of eucalypt stumps and shoots following harvesting (if the site is to be coppiced).

Pine and Eucalypt Regeneration

Re-establishment is a key silvicultural operation in South Africa where the area of land under industrial wood plantations has not increased significantly for 15 years. Re‑establishment of stands after clearfelling is both the largest component of total silviculture costs over a rotation, and the activity that most determines how close actual yield will come to the potential. The critical objective of achieving successful re-establishment at minimum cost remains a key challenge to silviculture practice in South Africa.

Growth and Yield: Eucalypt pulpwood

Predicting crop growth and yield based on site potential or cruising inventory, using growth and yield models is important for most forest management decisions concerning silviculture, harvest scheduling and sustainable wood supply.  Growth and yield models require long-term acquisition of tree growth measurements from permanent sample plots, spacing and thinning trials.

Growth and Yield: Patula hybrids

Predicting crop growth and yield based on site potential or cruising inventory, using growth and yield models is important for most forest management decisions concerning silviculture, harvest scheduling and sustainable wood supply.  Growth and yield models require long-term acquisition of tree growth measurements from permanent sample plots, spacing and thinning trials.

Integrated inter-rotation management

There is both scope and need to improve synergies in the forest products value chain, particularly between silviculture, harvesting and processing plants. Wood is the single largest variable cost in manufacture of most forest products in South Africa, and the delivered cost of wood at the processing plant comprises growing, harvesting and transport costs. Considerable opportunity exists to improve efficiencies in the value chain if the interface between tree growing and harvesting, and considering mill requirements can be better optimised.

Growth, Biomass and Carbon Modelling

Industrial wood plantations are increasingly viewed as a source of biomass rather than simply round wood, and this biomass comprises stem bark, branches, leaves, forest floor, stump and belowground root system. Collectively this is an important nutrient stock that will decompose to provide part of the next crop requirements. It also has a role in carbon stock retention in planted forests and therefore in maintaining a favourable carbon footprint.

Eucalypt pole production

Eucalypt plantations are the main source of treated and untreated wooden poles produced in summer rainfall regions of South Africa and account for 60% of total wooden pole production in the country.  The markets for wooden poles are diverse and require a very wide range of different size products.

Forest Operations

Industrial wood plantation management must ensure a sustainable annual harvest of wood delivered to processing plants as a rateable supply of fit-for-purpose furnish at costs that enable the value chain to compete profitably in an international market place.  Forest operations management aims to achieve these disparate requirements by integrating production systems from nursery to point of sale.

Forest Engineering (FESA)

Forest Engineering Southern African (FESA) was disbanded in 2014 as an industry funded initiative which served the southern African Forest Industry's Forest Engineering sector through research, development and technical support. FESA provided the platform for Applied Forest Engineering Research in southern Africa. The mission of FESA was to developing solutions for delivering timber sustainably at the lowest cost

 

FESA’s focus areas included the following forestry disciplines: