Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Good Plantation Management Issues

2010 Cultivation
Amazonia Reforestation and CO2 Tropical Trees have had 3 excellent years of tree planting, with 2011  promising to be even more exciting and rewarding. The tropical trees we have planted to date are doing extremely well. We have lost significantly less than 1% of the trees we have planted, thanks to good forest management practices. At present we have some 300,000 trees in the ground and we are planting 425,000 more trees this year (340 hectares or 815 acres). That means that as of August 2011 we will have over $50 million dollars’ worth of fast-growing tropical hardwood trees growing in our plantations.

Some people think that planting trees simply involves sticking them in the ground and they will grow, without more. Many are astonished to learn that it costs approximately $1 million dollars to plant 1,000 hectares (2,470 acres) of tropical trees properly. The reality is that there are a lot of steps that need to be taken for success. This article sets out 10 of the early steps we take at Amazonia Reforestation:

  1. One needs to have a good source of seeds. Seeds with bad genetics or seeds taken from the wrong climate will often not grow or produce poor results and gimped trees.
  2. Stuffing Planting BagsThe tree nursery needs to be professionally managed. Planting bags that are not stuffed firmly with soil  allow too much air around the roots of the seedling, causing the roots to dry out or the soil to fall away when the seedlings are planted. Due to the hot climate we need to provide shade for the seedlings, with just enough light for good photo-synthesis. Our irrigation system needs to spread a fine mist of water vapor so as to not harm many of the seedlings, while they set roots. The tree nursery needs to be fenced to stop wildlife from munching on the tender little seedlings. There is much more to say about nurseries, but that is for another day.
  3. Good soil preparation is extremely important. We plough the soil to a depth of 75 cm and sometimes as deep as 90 cm, depending on the species. That is because tropical trees set deep roots in the soil. Good soil preparation allows the trees to grow faster, because then they are not struggling to break through compacted soil. Deep roots prevent losses due to high winds or wet swampy soil.
  4. Most tropical soils are infertile, which means we need to provide the trees with proper nutrition if we want fast and good results. At La Pedregoza we use a special mix of forestry fertilizer that contains nothing but elements, no chemicals and no inert matter. This allows the trees to grow quickly, after which they become self-sufficient using photo-synthesis, carbon capture and recycling to grow. Virtually all rain forest trees are perfect recycling systems, which is why soils in Amazon deforestation areas are often poor after the trees are removed.
  5. Our fertilizer mix also contains calcium or lime. The tree doesn't need the lime directly, but it is required in order to balance the PH levels of tropical soils, which are often acidic due to thousands of years of pounding tropical rains, that leach the soil, leaving it acidic. The lime also softens the soil, which might otherwise bake into a cement-like hardness, allowing the roots of the seedling to quickly spread in the soil. Most tropical trees prefer a balanced PH soil.
  6. Tree NurseryThe tropical trees we plant are known to be good for land reclamation projects, because they can survive in poor or infertile soils. In fact, because of their ability to fix nitrogen and carbon in the soil, they allow us to improve the soil in the first cycle of planting, so that we can plant more demanding and sensitive tree species in the second planting cycle. This means that harvesting plantation species allows us to plant native tree species for better bio-diversity in the future.
  7. Forest planting has to occur in mid-rainy season. If we plant too early the seedlings might get  swamped and drown. If we plant too late, they may not be able to build up sufficient water reserves to survive the dry season. Tree planting in mid-rainy season means that we become a large employer of temporary workers, who do nothing but plant trees for a solid month. Usually we employ our workers for 4 months, from nursery through soil preparation to planting and clean-up. Tree planting is an important source of socio-economic development in the region.
  8. We establish good fire breaks all around and throughout the plantation. This prevents grass fires and forest fires from damaging the new trees or from spreading. Once the trees become more than 3 years of age most of them act as natural fire breaks against grass fires, because hardwood trees do not burn as easily as softwood trees.
  9. La Pedregoza usually does 3 fertilizations of the trees, one when planting, another in 12 months and  the final one at 24 months. The fertilizer is mixed into the soil so that it goes to the roots when it  rains and is not washed off by the rain. Surface fertilization does not work. This is more labor intensive, but well worth the results.
  10. Soil PreparationFast growing tropical trees reach a peek at about 24 months of age, after which they continue to grow  more slowly as they build up biomass in the tree trunk. This is the point at which some species require  pruning for better wood quality, or where they have bifurcated trunks that may retard their overall growth. This is also the point at which the trees start to provide enough shade so that there is no longer any undergrowth, reducing fire risk and creating a tropical forest canopy effect that in turn helps to cool the Earth.