Assessing the effects of early silvicultural management on long-term site productivity of fast-growing eucalypt plantations: the Brazilian experience

  • JLM Gonçalves Department of Forest Sciences, ‘Luiz de Queiroz’ College of Agriculture, University of São Paulo, Piracicaba, Brazil
  • JL Stape Department of Forest Sciences, ‘Luiz de Queiroz’ College of Agriculture, University of São Paulo, Piracicaba, Brazil
  • J-P Laclau CIRAD, UPR Ecosystèmes de Plantations, TA B-80/D, Montpellier F-34398, France
  • J-P Bouillet CIRAD, UPR Ecosystèmes de Plantations, TA B-80/D, Montpellier F-34398, France
  • J Ranger INRA, Biogéochimie des Ecosystèmes Forestiers, 54280 Champenoux, France

Abstract

Eucalyptus is the dominant and most productive planted forest in Brazil, covering around 3.4 million ha for the production of charcoal, pulp, sawtimber, timber plates, wood foils, plywood and for building purposes. At the early establishment of the forest plantations, during the second half of the 1960s, the eucalypt yield was 10 m3 ha–1 y–1. Now, as a result of investments in research and technology, the average productivity is 38 m3 ha–1 y–1. The productivity restrictions are related to the following environmental factors, in order of importance: water deficits > nutrient deficiency > soil depth and strength. The clonal forests have been fundamental in sites with larger water and nutrient restrictions, where they out-perform those established from traditional seed-based planting stock. When the environmental limitations are small the productivities of plantations based on clones or seeds appear to be similar. In the long term there are risks to sustainability, because of the low fertility and low reserves of primary minerals in the soils, which are, commonly, loamy and clayey oxisols and ultisols. Usually, a decline of soil quality is caused by management that does not conserve soil and site resources, damages soil physical and chemical characteristics, and insufficient or unbalanced fertiliser management. The problem is more serious when fast-growing genotypes are planted, which have a high nutrient demand and uptake capacity, and therefore high nutrient output through harvesting. The need to mobilise less soil by providing more cover and protection, reduce the nutrient and organic matter losses, preserve crucial physical properties as permeability (root growth, infiltration and aeration), improve weed control and reduce costs has led to a progressive increase in the use of minimum cultivation practices during the last 20 years, which has been accepted as a good alternative to keep or increase site quality in the long term. In this paper we provide a synthesis and critical appraisal of the research results and practical implications of early silvicultural management on long-term site productivity of fast-growing eucalypt plantations arising from the Brazilian context.

Keywords: fertilisation; minimum cultivation; residue management; soil preparation; sustainability; water deficit

Southern Forests 2008, 70(2): 105–118
Published
2008-09-18
Section
Articles

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eISSN: 2070-2639
print ISSN: 2070-2620