By Elisha Singira

Silviculturists- people who grow trees for economic gain- should embrace new management systems in their plantations to maximize their earnings in the tree planting business.

Dr. James Kimondo, the acting director of the Kenya Forestry Research Institute (KEFRI) said during a colloquium held by the organization.

Dr. Kimondo noted that silviculturists were still attached to the old ways of tree production which saw their earnings drastically reduce. If the new management systems are adopted, it will help improve the tree production in Kenya and hence increase the land under tree cover, he said.

Additionally, he called on the foresters to embrace indigenous tree species noting that at the start of plantation forestry in Kenya, exotic tree species and their management were introduced from other areas to meet the growing demand of emerging industries that were involved in timber products.

Apart from the management, Dr. Kimondo noted several challenges in the plantations which hinder full growth of silviculture. These include insufficient funds which make it impossible to carry out all silvicultural operations, too many seedlings planted on the farm hence create competition at an early age, soil erosion due to bare grounds after heavy rains, the poor growth of ground vegetation cover because of  unpruned canopy suppression canopy and also, the overall returns to the investor is low.

To resolve these issues, he called for a management regime that reduces the volume of work at all stages while advising  foresters to encourage the cultivators to stay longer in the plantation to protect and care for the trees.

“There is need to apply a regime that does not require removal of young trees at an early age when they are only good for firewood and not to leave the ground unoccupied for excessively too long,” said Dr. Kimondo.

He advised that the new regime should consider species that have been greatly improved, all seedlings to be planted should be candidates for a final crop, and silvicultural thinning should be avoided to save on cost.

Through large spacing, he said, there will be land for the adjacent communities to cultivate crops which will make the trees benefit from the extended care of the farmers.

Besides, Dr. Kimondo noted that different configurations could be applied such as planting trees closely in a row but with wide space between rows – 5.8*2.1 which will take 820 seedlings per hectare.

He said that this regime may only need 1 thinning at 12 years where 50% of trees are removed or a radical approach where the largest trees are harvested and sold at 12 years and small ones retained to a rotation of 25 to 28 years.

With large spacing, he added that mechanization of the farm practices will be enhanced and large holes for seedling planting will be dug hence ensuring the survival of seedlings.