Friday, July 1, 2011
Caribbean Pine – a profitable plantation tree!
This year Amazonia Reforestation planted 50 hectares or 124 acres of Caribbean Pine or Pinus caribaea, a member of the Pinaceae family. The tree grows well in areas from sea level to 700 m or 2,300 feet, with ample rainfall between 2000 to 3000 mm (78 to 118 inches) per annum. Since Amazonia Reforestation works in the Orinoco River basin of Vichada, Colombia, it meets those criteria readily, as its plantations average 60 m (197 feet) above sea level with annual rainfall around 2,400 mm (95 inches). Pinus caribaea likes sandy, well drained soils with some gravel content, tolerates pH between 5.0 to 5.5 and temperatures ranging from 25 to 38 degrees centigrade (77 to 100 Fahrenheit), all normal conditions in Vichada.
In some ways Pinus caribaea resembles pines with which people from North America or Europe may be familiar, such as evergreen needles and cones. However, that is where the similarity ends, as Caribbean Pine is a fast growing (15 to 20 years to maturity) softwood tree with wood that is harder than many varieties of maple. This tropical tree has a mostly well-formed and straight trunk that culminates in a pyramidal crown at its top. The tree grows to be 30 to 35 meters (98 to 115 feet) in height, with a trunk that measures from 50 to 100 cm (20 to 40 inches) in diameter, depending on local conditions. The basic density of Pinus caribaea is expressed as being 586 kilograms per cubic meter of green volume, but with a natural hardness that makes the tree suitable for flooring and other uses. The heartwood is considered termite resistant. These factors have made Caribbean Pine a popular plantation species, with an attractive grain, that is profitable, sequesters carbon, and is internationally recognized.
Amazonia Reforestation uses certified seeds from Venezuela, where Caribbean Pine is grown in similar conditions to Vichada. Seeds from Honduras and Guatemala have proven not to be suitable for use in the Orinoco River basin, probably because of their origin in higher, cooler elevations. Trees have both male and female flowers and cones, though some trees may be only male or female. Seed germination is usually easy in managed conditions. Local conditions in Vichada have led Amazonia Reforestation to employ a slightly different process in its tree nurseries, with seedlings being exposed to full sunlight to minimize future shock when transplanted to the field. Soil preparation is as usual important, with plowing to a depth of 75 cm (30 inches) and fertilization using special forestry mixes containing nitrogen. Seedlings are planted in the field when they are only 8 to 10 cm (3 to 4 inches) tall, but this allows the seedling to quickly strike deep roots for better and faster future growth. Seedlings that are planted when they are 20 cm (6 to 8 inches) or taller often have problems, because their roots will start to grow upwards inside the planting bag, causing failure once they are in the field. Planting occurs in grids with trees spaced 2.8 to 3 meters (9 to 10 feet) apart.
Revenue can be generated early (15 years) when the trees are sold for pulpwood, thanks to the wood’s long tracheids. Besides paper, the pulp can be used for fiberboard, particleboard and chipboard. Opinions differ on its usefulness for furniture, but the fact is that toys, moldings, floor boards and other uses are common. The wood has a high resin content, which may affect gluing and finishing, but on the plus side the trees can be tapped from age 10 years on, with daily harvests of oleoresins, used for turpentine and gum. The oil also finds use in medicinal applications, and the pine nuts are a popular food source in many countries. On the service side, Pinus caribaea has proven itself invaluable for clothing heavily eroded lands containing acidic soils with a tree cover. As with many plantation species, Caribbean Pine is a valuable tropical tree popular with wood growers and profitable for plantation investors.