Intensive Monitoring of Planted And Competing Trees (IMPACT)

Post authored by Dr Michelle Eckert

We’re entering an exciting new phase, where EucXylo, in collaboration with Lourensford Wine Estate, will be establishing a new, state-of-the-art, long-term research facility to intensively monitor the growth of eucalypts when planted at different levels of competition. Intensive Monitoring of Planted And Competing Trees (IMPACT) will be a flagship site, one of the first intensive monitoring programs on eucalypts in South Africa, using a multi-species, multi-density approach.

One of our goals is to use highly specialized equipment and cutting-edge research protocols to examine eucalypt growth and development (from root to canopy). Additionally, we will investigate the role of competition on eucalypt growth and physiology, which will be achieved by planting the trees at different spacings to get a range of stand densities that will give a high contrast between the level of competition that the trees will experience during growth. The spacing treatments chosen include 1.2m x 1.2m (6944 trees/ha), 2m x 2m (2500 trees/ha), 3m x 3m (1111 trees/ha) and 5m x 5m (400 trees/ha). To introduce contrast, four physiologically and morphologically distinct eucalypts, each with its own industrial or economic significance will be included in these trials. Currently, the chosen species are Eucalyptus cladocalyx, Eucalyptus cloeziana, Eucalyptus grandis, and Eucalyptus urophylla.

In the spirit of Dr. Merensky, this site will also offer opportunity for collaboration between researchers from different research sectors and disciplines (e.g. Forestry, Conservation Ecology, Soil Science, Engineering, and many more).

Since September 2023, work has been underway to clear the two compartments at Lourensford Wine Estate in collaboration with Green Cape Forestry to prepare for the planting of seedlings in May 2024 (Figure 1).

Figure 1. Upper section of a compartment made available by Lourensford Wine Estate. The site has undergone some management (slash and chemical) to prepare for the planting in May 2024.

During September 2023, Dr. Eckert and Dr. Moller started the germination process of seeds of E. cladocalyx (Figure 2), as this is a slow-growing species. Currently, the seedlings are being cultivated in the nursery area of the Department of Forestry and Wood Science (DFWS) (Figure 2).

Figure 2. Left: E. cladocalyx germination procedure. Right: Cultivated seedlings growing in the nursery of the DFWS.

In total, just over 4000 seeds have been germinated to ensure that there are enough trees to plant in May 2024. The seedlings of the other species will be ordered from our partners in November 2023.

We are all very excited for this new phase for EucXylo! We will keep you all updated on the progress ahead!

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