Southern Forests: a Journal of Forest Science

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Plantation disease and pest management in the next century

MJ Wingfield, J Roux, T Coutinho, P Govender, BD Wingfield


The extensive development of plantation forestry in the tropics and Southern Hemisphere marks one of the great industrial successes of the 20th Century. Early experience led to the discovery that certain trees, although not particularly impressive in their areas of origin, can grow rapidly in exotic situations. More importantly, they are sufficiently genetically malleable to become outstanding plantation species through breeding. Perhaps the best examples of such trees are Pinus radiata and Eucalyptus grandis. By the early 1960's, diseases and pests were recognised as two of the most important threats to exotic plantation forestry. It was realised that separation of the crop from its natural enemies was responsible for the initial outstanding productivity of exotic plantation forestry. Gradually, new pathogens have been introduced in plantations in the tropics and Southern Hemisphere. The impact of these problems has been offset by new technologies that enhance the production of elite planting stock. During the course of the 21st Century, we will experience the emergence of many new strategies to cope with disease and insect pests in intensively managed and genetically modified plantations. The impact of DNA based technologies that enhance breeding will be one of the first developments, followed by the deployment of transgenic trees and microbes. The rapid emergence of DNA based technologies will bring tremendous opportunities to forestry, including its capacity to deal with pests and diseases. However, early experiences are likely to also be beset with problems. These will include a negative perception of transgenics by environmental action groups and the public. Successful forestry will, however, rest on persistence and patience while problems are addressed. Winning industries will be those that have harnessed new opportunities and that have developed the strategies to capitalise on these when concerns linked to safe deployment have been addressed.

Southern African Forestry Journal No.190 2001: 67-72

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