Silvicultural research requirements of the South African commercial forestry industry: A qualitative assessment through stakeholder consultation

Rietz DN, Ackerman SA, Titshall LW
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The pressure on reducing the cost of delivered wood in the South African commercial forestry industry has resulted in changes to the way in which many silvicultural operations are performed. These changes often include the re-prioritisation of various aspects of silviculture, the reduction in the number of operations, and the increased efficiency of operations, which may include a level of mechanisation.
Previous silvicultural recommendations were developed for a more manual and labour intensive industry and may therefore either require review or new research to ensure they remain relevant. The objective of this study was to prioritise the silvicultural information and research needs of the South African commercial forestry sector through stakeholder consultations.
Key individuals within forestry companies, timber producing regimes and areas (north and south of the summer rainfall region), were interviewed in a structured manner, including discussion on all aspects of silviculture, and the perceived need for research in those areas. Additional comments or discussion were also noted.
After the interview process, responses were collated according to commonality of concerns and needs (across the surveyed companies). The highest priority areas requiring review or research across the industry were those of tree spacing, planting layout and fire prevention. These were followed by harvest residue management (principally determining the negative impacts of burning and possible sustainable alternatives), chemicals (i.e. pesticides and herbicides) that meet the Forestry Stewardship Council (FSC) standards, the interaction between management and pests and diseases, and issues pertaining to pitting (the effect of different semi-mechanised or mechanised pitting heads, as well as the length of time between pitting and planting and the effect on pit quality).