Plantation requirements

Generally, plantations and agroforestry systems promoted by enterprises and development organizations implicitly require significant investment. The specific costs depend on a wide variety of parameters such as plantation size, planting density, management intensity and transport distances. Table 6.2 shows cost examples for smallholder plantations in China and Australia and provides comparative data about smallholder-driven tree-growing initiatives from a case study at the Amazonian highway.

Table 6.2 shows that the establishment of a plantation requires a significant investment. These costs vary strongly in relation to the type of nursery, transport distances, soil quality (need for fertilizer) as well as the tree species grown. Generally, seedlings from exotic tree species are less expensive than those from domestic ones as they are produced in smaller quantities often with more basic, less effective technologies. Along the Trans-Amazonian highway, for example, mahogany seedlings were sold for US$1.40 per seedling whereas 100 eucalypt seedlings cost less than US$10 in 2009 (Hoch, 2009). The cost of site preparation and planting in regular planting schemes is directly proportional to the size of the area planted. The application of fertilizer in fast-growing plantations is mandatory, even on fertile soils. For optimal growth,

Table 6.2 Expenditures for plantations (excluding land costs)

Activity

Commercial plantations

Chinaa

Activities US$ha-1

Australia"

Tree growing Amazonian highway Activities

US$ha-1

Establishment

Plants, site preparation,

619

1346

own workforce

65

planting, 3 fertilizer

applications and

plants bought and

weed control

planting

2GG

Maintenance

Fertilizing, weed

B19

226

included in

control and thinning

agricultural treatment

G

Harvesting

Cutting and skidding

1GGG

not available

cutting and skidding

BGG

Transport

Up to 50km

5GGG

not available

up to 50km

5GGG

' Eucalyptus spp., 7 years rotation; data adapted from Xu (2003) 1 Eucalyptus spp., 30 years rotation; data adapted from Heathcote (2002) : 100 trees per ha, 20-50 years rotation, data adapted from Hoch, 2009

plantations require intensive treatments such as pest management, regular fertilization, thinning and pruning, which over the years also involve major costs. Finally, harvesting and especially transport are also costly. As a consequence, the total costs for establishing, maintaining and harvesting a fast-growing plantation may easily reach US$2000 per ha.

The management of forest plantations is time consuming, especially during the establishment phase and at the end of the production cycle. Compared to large companies, smallholders' working input per tree is even higher as they work without machinery, and opportunities for the specialization and division of work are limited. Generally, the work input per tree increases with smaller areas, lower mechanization and the need for individual treatments. Hoch, 2009 estimate, from their study in the Amazon region, that smallholders need about 60 days to establish one hectare of plantation for the production of timber and/or cacao, which involves site preparation, producing and planting 500 seedlings as well as weeding in the first year. Just watering the seedlings in the nursery requires more than one hour per day over several months. The same study concluded that, in view of this time input, farmers are able to establish a maximum of up to 2ha of plantation per year with the family workforce. Larger areas require (costly) external labour. During the two years subsequent to the establishment of the trees, weeding sometimes needs to be conducted four times to ensure the survival and growth of plants, which easily may aggregate to another 20-28 working days per hectare. Once the trees are tall enough to withstand the competition from secondary vegetation, the time input reduces significantly for most plantation types. However, for the production of high-value timber, for example, continuous silvicultural treatments such as thinning and pruning are necessary. The work input for harvesting depends on the product, the cutting diameter and degree of mechanization. Generally, harvesting of NWFP is more time intensive. In cupuazĂș plantations in Bolivia, for example, around 2-3 hours per day and ha are required to harvest the fruits over a period of 3-4 months a year (Hoch, 2009).

As mentioned above, plantations need to be established on fertile soils and on relatively large areas to ensure adequate productivity and a reasonable cost-benefit ratio. This is particularly true for products with relatively low unit values such as pulpwood. Planting on less fertile soils leads to sub-optimal growing conditions and demands investment in amelioration and fertilization, negatively affecting the financial attractiveness of plantations (Hoch et al, 2009).

In addition, specific technical skills are needed to manage plantations adequately, including activities such as the selection of seeds and plants, the treatment of seeds and seedlings, managing nurseries, thinning and pruning and harvesting. The management of plantations is also an organizational challenge and requires long-term planning and the proper organization of work. The treatment of seedlings in the nurseries, planting, the application of fertilizer, pest control and silvicultural treatments need to be carried out properly in clearly defined timespans. Also critical is the challenge of negotiating with external agencies for setting up the terms of cooperation and marketing is most critical (Scherr et al, 2004). In the case of outgrower schemes, the terms of cooperation are often pre-defined by the company (WRM, 1999; WBCSD, 2001). Agreements with traders and companies also may include the need to achieve certain quality standards as well as the delivery of certain quantities in pre-defined timeframes (Pokorny and Phillip, 2008). Often, the participation in plantation programmes, particularly if related to the transfer of resources, requires that families establish associations, which signifies another organizational challenge.

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  • ernest hall
    What is required to be a plantation?
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    What is the reqaurment for plantation development?
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