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Mechanical Planting

by editor arbor age

Forestry Corporation of NSW has finished trialling mechanical forest planting in the Nundle area, with the technology offering many advantages for the bushfire recovery planting program and having the potential to reduce the need for site preparation, to increase planting rates and extend the planting season.

Conducted using equipment manufactured by Risutec in Finland, Forestry Corporation advised that it is the first time this equipment has been used in Australia.

When asked about the trial, Forestry Corporation Manager of Innovation and Research Mike Sutton described the trial as “a great opportunity to advance the forestry industry’s knowledge in this area”.

“Mechanical planting could be a way of addressing the extra workload ahead of us in replanting burnt forests, while maintaining a safe workplace for our crews and contractors,” Mr Sutton said.

“Mechanical planting could be a way of addressing the extra workload ahead of us in replanting burnt forests.”

“The trial is a partnership between Forestry Corporation and All Above Reforestation Australia, with support from Risutec and Komatsu, to explore how planting machinery can complement onground crews.

Among the replanting program benefits, Forestry Corporation advised that the technology can extend the planting day (by operating at night under lights) and planting season (with the option of irrigation), help with spot site preparation, and assist with GPS n vigation and tagging of tree planting locations.

The 40 hectare trial, across two compartments at Hanging Rock State forest, identified the potential benefits of mechanised planting and ways that the equipment and operations could be improved.

“We look forward to comparing the performance of the machine-planted seedlings with hand planting at the six month survival assessment. The planting head spot-cultivates at the time of planting, removing the need for separate site preparation,” Mr Sutton said.

“The trial was able to demonstrate that the spot cultivation was superior to conventional site preparation – i.e., ripping followed by ‘double-dig’ planting with a spade. Cultivation, planting and the optional application of herbicide, water and a water- retaining gel is done in one pass.”

All Above Reforestation leased the machinery from a New Zealand business to assess its suitability for use in NSW forests, said Managing Director Shay Radcliffe.

“Despite some initial teething problems, the planting unit exceeded our expectations.”

Forestry Corporation is responsible for managing over two million hectares of forests across NSW, including around 240,000 hectares of plantations. Around one quarter of the plantation estate was affected by the 2019-20 bushfire season.

For more information on the trial visit forestrycorporation.com.au