2 December, 2020
Forecasting future silviculture technologies
"A forecast of silviculture
re-establishment technologies of the future in plantation forestry," was
the topic of a research paper delivered at the 52nd International Symposium
on Forestry Mechanisation held in Hungary last year.
The researchers were Muedanyi Ramantswana
and Keith Little of Nelson Mandela University (NMU), Michal Brink and Paxie
Chirwa of the University of Pretoria, and Rafaele Spinelli of the CNR IVALSA in
In an extended abstract of the paper
published in the proceedings of the symposium, the authors reported that:
Technology is moving at a rapid pace, and
in forestry, innovations are increasingly integrated with operations such as
silviculture re-establishment (regeneration). Globally, re-establishment
operations have traditionally been manually orientated except soil preparation
techniques that have shown the most progress.
The main drivers of mechanisation in
re-establishment are labour shortages, increasing labour costs, the need to
increase productivity, the need to reduce exposure to safety risks, and to
improve the quality and uniformity in forest stands.
However, unlike harvesting,
re-establishment mechanisation is globally fragmented due to the wide variability
of site factors, and how the practices are conducted.
Due to the increasing need to remain
competitive and meet growing wood demands, there has been an increased focus on
various innovative ways to improve re-establishment activities. However, little
is known about new re-establishment technologies that exist in plantation
forestry and how these may evolve going into the future.
The study aimed to identify potential
re-establishment technologies and further forecast when they were likely to be
adopted in future.
The Delphi technique was used to
systematically elicit expert opinion on possible future re-establishment technologies
with the highest probability of being adopted in operations. The technologies
were broadly categorised into:
material input innovations,
Within these wide-ranging technology areas,
18 specific technologies were identified and forecasted. The process involved
distributing a questionnaire to 24 experts in the field of silviculture
re-establishment in plantation forestry.
The technology forecasting spanned over six
months and involved three rounds of response analysis and recirculating the
questionnaire amongst the experts. Statistical analyses were conducted on the data
to determine central tendencies (mode) and percentage change in predictions
between Delphi 1 and Delphi 3 iterations.
The Delphi findings indicate that by "2025"
there is a high chance that machine-specific technologies such as:
advanced machine terrain
drones and machine self-diagnosis
will reach 50% adoption, whilst machine
automation and robotics may reach 50% adoption about five years later.
In addition, by "2025" material
input technologies such as:
optimised chemical applicators,
low emission engines
will likely reach 50% adoption. The
adoption rates of these technologies will be influenced by the availability of
infrastructure, social and environmental pressures as well as legislation
imposed by various external stakeholders.
The Delphi revealed that the adoption of
operator-specific technologies is ongoing and progressive.
The experts concluded that the adoption of
ergonomically friendly cabs occurred in "2018", and by "2025"
the widespread adoption of simulation training and machine learning
technologies can be expected.
The Delphi results also indicated that by "2025"
real-time monitoring of operations, stands and operators, as well as big data
processing technology, will reach 50% adoption.
Despite several potential future
technologies identified in this study, advanced human interface technology and remote-control
technologies were identified as highly unlikely to be adopted in the future.
Although one study is insufficient to
completely reorient the industry as a whole, this study has exposed key new
relevant technologies that forest owners need to be aware of when they plan for
Extracted from I. Czupy (2019): Exceeding
the Vision: Forest Mechanisation of the Future. Proceedings of the 52nd
International Symposium on Forestry Mechanization. Sopron, Hungary 2019.
Source: Joy Crane
WoodSA & Timber Times