Forestry in South Africa
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August : Sunshine Seedlings doubles clone production

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22 August, 2012


The growing demand for high productivity, disease tolerant clones among forestry companies has prompted Sunshine Seedlings to double their output of clonal cuttings from three million a year to six million a year.

Sunshine Seedlings has been producing G x U, G x N and G x C clones for the forestry industry for the past 15 years, but the recent outbreaks of Leptocybe invasa has resulted in a massive growth in demand for the new clonal material, particularly G x U clones, which have proved to be tolerant to Leptocybe.

"E. Grandis is no longer suitable for planting because of Leptocybe, so the demand for tolerant clones has increased tremendously," said Ken Leisegang, founder and MD of Sunshine Seedlings.

Ken said the clones Sunshine Seedlings uses to make cuttings have been developed by the CSIR and tested by NCT Forestry.

"The G x U clones were only considered suitable for planting in the Zululand area, but now we've selected G x Us that are suitable for the Midlands as well and there is a lot of demand from the corporate growers as well as private farmers."

Ken said the new clones his company produces are good for pulp, saw timber and for poles, and are tested for pest and disease resistance by Fabi. They give 20% to 30% additional yield and uniform growth, which enables tree farmers to maximize their productivity.

Sunshine Seedlings has trained up additional staff and built new tunnels to accommodate the increased production.

In addition to the clones, Sunshine Seedlings produces around 10 to 12 million eucalyptus, pine and wattle seedlings a year, as well as a range of vegetable seedlings and flowers.

They have holding nurseries in Vryheid, Kwambonambi, Park Rynie and Lusikisiki, and deliver to customers anywhere in the country.

When SA Forestry visited Sunshine Seedlings' main nursery just outside Pietermaritzburg it was a hive of activity what with the on-going construction of new tunnels and the increased production of clonal cuttings. This is the busiest time of the year for the forestry side of the business as it takes around three months to grow the clones. Forestry companies are now placing their orders for the upcoming spring planting season.

The new clones spend their first month in the rooting tunnel with precise moisture and temperature control, then a month in the hardening off tunnel where the moisture is gradually reduced and fertiliser applied. After that they are moved into the grow-out section where the cuttings are consolidated and evened out in readiness for delivery to customers.

In the pine section of the nursery strict hygiene protocols are in place to control disease, especially Fusarium Circinatum which affects P. patula seedlings. The tunnels are sealed off from the rest of the nursery, there are footbaths at the tunnel entrances, seedlings are planted in new trays, the growing areas are rotated and samples are sent to Fabi for regular testing.

"We haven't had a problem with Fusarium since we introduced the hygiene protocols," said Ken.

Sunshine Seedlings, which was started by Ken in 1982, is ISO9001 compliant and is also certified by the Seedling Growers Association of South Africa.

Article by: Chris Chapman
SA Forestry