Mlungisi Bushula, Stutterheim, Eastern Cape
In our forestry operation, we are currently harvesting pine trees that have reached full maturity at 30 years. Silviculture is ongoing in the younger tree plantations, where we are pruning, weeding and cleaning up the rows.
We have pine, gum and wattle in our operation. Pine trees take about 30 years to reach full maturity here, but in other areas, or depending on climate conditions, they could get there in 28 years. Generally in all our plantations we are maintaining the plantations by thinning and pruning.
Pine trees in particular require constant maintenance. For example, let’s say one plants about 1 111 trees/ha, the end goal would be to have about 237 trees/ha to 240 trees/ha by year 30. During this time the selected trees must be developed.
The reason we plant 1 111 trees is to encourage growth and competition between the trees. In the third year we start thinning, which involves removing all weaker and non-performing trees. The second thinning happens during their teenage years.
Then we target deformed trees and trees that have been damaged by fire. The third thinning happens when the trees are 22 years old. Once again we will remove non-performing and damaged trees.
At this stage, you’d be left with the number of trees you want, which is 237 to 240 trees. Gum trees, which are normally used for poles, such as fencing poles, are harvested at eight years old. Unlike pine, which you harvest, clean and replant, gum trees can and do regrow from the stumps left after the trees have been cut down.
We are currently trying new wattle varieties that are not as invasive as their cousins. Some of the wattle trees planted in South Africa are highly invasive and quickly become virtually uncontrollable.
At this time we are maintaining fences in our game farm business and rebuilding the hunting lodge that serves the game farm and wildlife operation. So, we have a busy December ahead of us.