Many of Sappi’s plantation forests are planted out as seedlings. Seeds are harvested from orchards of genetically superior trees representing a wide variety of pine and eucalypt species that have been carefully screened and selected for desired traits by Sappi’s Tree Breeding programme. Seed orchards are intensively managed and researched to encourage consistent production of abundant, high-quality seed. Both open-pollinated and control pollinated seed products are harvested, processed, cleaned, and germination tested according to international standards before sale and delivery to internal and external customers.
Sustaining and increasing future timber supply requires the development of best practices by research conducted in house or with partners at the Institute for Commercial Forestry Research and the Tree Protection Co-operative Programme. This includes optimal deployment of genetically improved material (measured as fibre gain), site species matching, fertilisation, planting density prescriptions, planting and coppicing practice and weeding prescriptions. Research is also conducted into forest health and silvicultural practices for protection from diseases and pests. Remote sensing and GIS analysis is used to assist with the identification and management of biotic and abiotic risks.
Supplying Sappi’s annual planting requirement from the best available sources is the task of four commercial nurseries based at Clan and Richmond in KwaZulu-Natal, and Ngodwana and Escarpment in Mpumalanga. Together, these nurseries supply in excess of 54 million seedlings and rooted cuttings of both pine and eucalypt species, and are constantly improving efficiencies and making use of the latest innovations in nursery practice and management.
Due to the time required to produce mature timber, from eight years for eucalypts up to 20 years for pines, long-term planning is essential to Sappi Forests. The planning section is the custodian of the company’s plantation growing stock and planning systems, and its main role is to document, monitor and model the resource to ensure that a continuous and sustainable supply of timber is available as required by different markets. Planning also maintains associated information and systems like planting permits and water licences as well as information for non-plantation areas.
Growing stock data is used for the determination of the value of forestry assets. Accurate information about growing stock is obtained from a systematic sampling of stands and growth models used to model stand development over time. Sappi has recently started using LiDAR data to supplement conventional sampling. Adjustments to growing stock are made for damage caused by pests and disease as well as climatic extremes. Sophisticated software is then used to produce annual operational, tactical and strategic supply plans. The planning section incorporates species recommendations from the research section in the three-year planting plan that is given to operational staff.
Applied operations research
As a team with knowledge and experience across multiple forestry disciplines including silviculture, harvesting, transport and fire protection, we operate across the full value chain from the initial planting of our trees through to maturity and the final supply to our markets. Using enabling technologies such as network analysis, LiDAR and remote sensing we work on research projects to evaluate new opportunities to improve our supply chain performance in a structured manner. The work entails classic applied operations research aspects namely; data analysis, optimisation methods, yield and demand management and tools providing models for planning and scheduling improvements. The primary objective of our work is to assist operations to evaluate and, where relevant, implement value chain changes that improve yield, productivity and performance in a cost-effective manner across the full supply chain.
Please feel free to contact us at ResearchPlanningNurseries@sappi.com