Today's forest owners have new options for regenerating forest areas. In recent years, forest regeneration by machine has become a viable alternative to traditional manual planting.
“We have been actively involved in developing mechanical forest management for a number of years. We want to offer our customers the best service for each site”, says Product Group Manager Jari Engström from UPM’s Forestry Services. Mechanical planting is primarily a suitable solution for mineral soil areas and the planting of spruce seedlings. “The price of mechanical planting is now very close to the price of manual planting. In suitable areas, it can be a very profitable option.”
Research results show that mechanical planting may provide slightly better quality than traditional methods. The most important factors improving quality are high-quality soil preparation and the uniform distance between trees. The initial development of a seedling is also accelerated if the seedling is planted into freshly prepared soil.
“Soil preparation and planting are performed simultaneously. A fresh mound is beneficial for the initial development of seedlings because it reduces the risk of drying. The reduced length of the cultivation chain significantly decreases the need for grass and brush control. Seedling maintenance is also more reliable when machinery is used”, Engström says.
According to Engström, factors limiting the use of mechanical forest renewal include stony soil, steep gradients and site size. “Machine transport costs play a major role, so the area needs to be larger than a hectare.”
Easy service packages
Forest regeneration is one of the service packages provided by UPM. It is always customised to meet the requirements of the site in question by selecting the most suitable tree species and the appropriate regeneration method. UPM's specialist provides the forest owner with a proposal for manual or mechanical soil preparation and planting. The specialist also estimates how many seedlings will be needed, gets the seedlings and workers to the site and updates the forest plan. For forest owners, the service is an easy and worry-free way of establishing a new seedling stand with just one agreement and a fixed price.
“The early tending of the new stand can also be added to the package. Our profitable seedling stand service includes establishing the stand and performing early clearing four to five years after planting. All the work stages are performed by machine”, Engström says.
The breeding of birch providing good results
UPM's most recent new service is the mechanical planting of birch seedlings. The seedlings have been improved through breeding and begin to grow quickly. “The breeding of birch trees is leaps ahead of the breeding of other tree species. We now use birch seedlings with a yield that is more than 20 percent better than the yield of seedlings with a regular forest origin”, describes Manager, Forest Management Jyri Schildt from UPM Forest.
The results obtained in birch breeding are promising for forest owners. “We currently have test sites with completely new cultivated silver birches that will achieve maturity as early as after 35 years in the best growing conditions. The trees grow at an excellent pace and are also of top quality. They are straight and have few branches, which results in a high log percentage”, says birch breeding expert Risto Hagqvist from Natural Resources Institute Finland (Luke).
Luke has performed active development work for over 50 years. “In the case of birch, our breeding work is now at a third-generation stage. These birches take the genetic gain achieved in growth rate to an entirely new level of 30 to 35 percent.”
The motivation for the breeding has been to make forest cultivation more varied and particularly to increase birch planting in lush areas. To forest owners, the shorter growth cycle and high quality logs are factors that significantly improve the profitability of forestry.
Unfortunately, the newly developed “super birch” is currently not available to forest owners. “More extensive seed production has been initiated on several sites. Seeds for seedling production will be available in a couple of years' time”, Hagqvist promises.
Benefits of mechanical planting
- Freshly prepared soil benefits the initial development of seedlings.
- Performing soil preparation and planting simultaneously shortens the cultivation cycle.
- Initial development is faster and the need for grass and brush control is reduced.
- Uniform quality of work results in even and predictable stand development.