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November/December 2022 | Muedanyi Ramantswana & Henny Zitha

Enabling Modernisation in Silviculture-Webinar



For the third time occurring the Nelson Mandela University Forestry Department hosted a webinar on the 19th of October 2022 under the theme “Enabling Modernization in Silviculture”. The webinar aimed at exploring how new and existing technologies are enabling silviculture modernization to improve sustainability in the planting and tending of forest stands. The webinar covered some of the main silviculture value chain activities happening locally and internationally. The webinar was attended "live" by over 200 attendees (professional and students) with the majority coming from South Africa. The attendees had representation from neighbouring countries was from Zimbabwe, Swaziland, Malawi, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, and several others. From South America was Brazil and Chile; from Europe, Finland, France, and Latvia were represented. From far reaching countries the webinar was attended by attendees from India, Indonesia, Malesia, Siera Leon, Pakistan, China, and Australia. A total of eight presentations were delivered by experts in various fields of silviculture technology in South Africa and Brazil. A summary of all the presentations is given below.

Technologies for improved nursery survival and growth
Mr Damien Naidu from Sappi presented about eucalyptus propagation and the three pillars of nursery efficiency being hedges, cuttings, and rooting. Furthermore, he described the importance of using paper pots and the benefits that can be derived from using them. He touched on modernizing nursery applications with the nursery 4.0 advancement analysis which speaks to fully integrating the digital system that measures and manages key parameters whether they are chemical, physical, or biological. He shared information about technologies such as the use of:
(i) QR codes to track seedling batches from the nursery to the planting area,
(ii) computer vision system to assess rapid plant quality in a nursery,
(iii) multispectral sensor to take images of the hedge plants and then running an indices that will give an indication of how healthy the plants are based on the canopy measurements
(iv) thermal imaging to assess the irrigation of the plants using colours, this thermal image is transferred to categories (high, medium, and low) using GIS mapping techniques to produce a degree of stress symptoms experienced within the nursery tray.

Steep terrain establishment
Mr Dumisani Shweni from New Forestry Solutions presented about the “three set up treatment AIS” – Area Integrated System which combines pre-plant spraying using a DJI-T30-Agras drone, pitting using the MPAT and planting with a dozer. The system is mainly applied on steep terrain where wheeled tractors cannot access. He shared about future plans to introduce a high-pressure planting configuration to the dozer as known as the Wasser Planter. New Forestry Solutions is also investigating the introduction of a fully mechanised planting machine which can perform pitting, planting, and fertilizing at the same time.

Application of drones in forestry
Mr Sam Twala from Ntsu Aviation Solutions presented about the compliance and legislations relating to drone applications. His presentation explored the different ways in which drones can be used for forestry applications, such as reforestation purposes, LiDAR application – above and under canopy assessment application, fire detection, security surveillance etc. Over and above that he presented about the challenges of drone legislation and the legislative review showcasing the categorization model which speaks to the three classification systems being open category, specific category, and certified category. Furthermore, he indicated that although this categorization is currently underway, it does not work for the industry because the classification is not inclusive of all types of operations. Lastly, he presented on the ideal legislation for drone application.

Using satellite imagery to monitor forest operations
Mr Michael Breetzke from Swift Geospatial presented on using satellite imagery to monitor forest operations with the objective of developing a single access monitoring geospatial platform. Swift Geospatial incorporates all types of information data collected through satellite imagery and makes it available for forest companies to make daily decisions. His presentation also displayed the use of Sentinal, Plannet and Mexar to monitor forest operations such as harvesting, infield stress, pre and post fire disasters, tree survival count, species identification etc. remotely.

Mechanised planting solutions for plantation forests in the southern hemisphere
Dr Rafael Soler from Bracke Forest Brazil presented about the different planting head models that they have for soil preparation, planting, irrigating, and fertilizing being the P11a, P11.b and P12.b. He focused on the application of the P12.b planting head which is equipped with a ripping rod (depth 400 – 800mm) and has a capacity of 196 seedlings. The head is also equipped with the head tilting function to ensure seedlings are planted upright on steep slopes. Dr Soler emphasized the importance of seedling quality when using the planters. He also described the findings from the P12.b on a demo show in Southern Brazil. Moreover, he touched on how the Hexagon application helps to keep reference of the planted seedlings.

Silviculture applications of drones in Brazil
Dr Guilherme Oguri from IPEF presented about drones in Brazil. The aim of IPEF as an organisation is to help increase productivity with high standard quality operations through mechanization and automation of silviculture production process. He presented about the main uses of drones in Brazil which are pesticides application and mapping either using cameras or LiDAR, however the presentation focused on pesticide application using different drones. Through the presentation he described the findings from the weeding, insect pest management and ants control studies conducted in 2021.

Challenges of integrating technology in forest 4.0
Mr Ronaldo Soares form Hexagon Agriculture gave an overview of some of the barriers to technology development in silviculture. Some of the barriers he indicated were for example resistance to change, lack of quality information and lack of technology awareness. He also compared the challenges in the development of mechanization in silviculture technology compared to harvesting. The main silviculture challenges he mentioned are:
• Implements/Tractors agricultural Base
• Slow technology development last 20 years
• Reduced number of manufacturers
• Limited investments
• Low technology
He concluded the talk by reflecting on the main challenge of a lack of investment in technology development and how it can be addressed.

Next year’s event is scheduled for Wednesday 18 of October 2023
For more information about the event and to contribute please contact the facilitator Dr Ramantswana at