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January/February 2022 | Muedanyi Ramantswana

Semi-mechanised planting with the dozer planting system

Tree Planting



The Umzimkhulu unit (South Africa)  is characterized by a large percentage of steep areas that are above 20% slope which are not suitable for modernised wheeled equipment used for re-establishment. Owing to the ever-increasing pressure to be cost effective and the necessity to modernise; New Forestry Solutions through a continuous improvement initiative together with BnB transport (both under the same consortium) partnered to configure a dozer and converted it to a planting machine. The primary reason for the introduction of a dozer to a planting operation, was to increase the total area where modernised establishment operations can be implemented.

Descriptions of the equipment
The second hand CAT dozer planter is a tracked machine with a hydrostatic drive that carries two 650L tanks that together give 1300L of hydrogel. It uses a specialised centrifugal pump which mixtures and pumps hydrogel which flows into pipes that are attached on a horizontal boom with four planting tubes. The planting tubes have a planting beak which deposits the plant into a pit together with 1 litre hydrogel per plant. This planting system can operate up to a slope of 35% on areas with a maximum of 10cm stump height and preferably on burnt compartment as a safety precaution.

                                                                                                                                                       Image by: Zongezile Nongalo
Efficiency of the system
Previously areas with slopes above 20% were planted using back packs or old traditional manual methods. These systems were very labour intensive, costly and strenuous to the employees due to high exposure to natural elements such as gravitational force, poor underfoot conditions, extreme weather conditions and many more. The Dozer planting system which comprises of a team of four planting personnel, two people to replenish seedlings and one person sorting the plants at the planting station, was introduced as a solution to the above-mentioned challenges with benefits of improved productivity, safety, general working conditions and ergonomics. When the dozer planting system is used to plant a compartment with a spacing of 3m x 2.5m the system can be expected to plant an average of 4 ha per 8-hour shift.

When the current Dozer planting system is combined with a MPAT  (single pitting head machine), it  can comfortably operate to a maximum slope of 35% slope even though the Dozer machine carrier can operate up to a maximum of slope of 45%. The future plan is to introduce a Wasserplanzer (high water pressure planting) configuration to the dozer machine which will enable the machine to pit and plant, thereby maximising the full capability of the dozer machine. This system has good potential on steeper areas where traditional wheeled tractor towed planting systems cannot access.

Contribution by Zongezile Nongalo (Silviculture operations forester at New Forestry Solutions)