Over a million hectares of pine, eucalypt and wattle trees are growing in plantations across South Africa. The majority of these forests are planted out as seedlings which were raised in nurseries from a seed crop collected in hundreds of seed orchards around the country. With their relatively low cost and ease of use, seeds remain the most commonly used reproductive material for plantation forest regeneration – not only in South Africa, but internationally too. For this reason, the quality and quantity of tree seeds produced in South Africa is of crucial importance to the local forestry industry.
by Luke Solomon

An operator performs controlled pollination on an E. grandis flower. The male anthers have been removed to emasculate the flower, and now selected pollen is being placed onto the female stigma which is made receptive by cutting off the tip with a scalpel blade.


Despite the huge impact of this vital raw material, however, relatively few researchers, foresters and scientists are focused on the production, harvesting and processing of tree seed.

Given the limited number of seed workers in the country, it was apparent that cooperation and communication among peers in the industry would be key to ensuring a sustainable seed supply. With this in mind, the Seed Orchard Research Working Group (SORWG) was formed in 2002 by forestry stakeholders to create a forum for discussion, debate and the exchange of ideas around seed and seed orchards.

Since its formation, the group has met twice a year to share current findings on a wide range of topics including flowering and pollination research; seed orchard design and establishment; seed germination testing, seed disease screening and seed enhancements. The group has also worked together on establishing industry standards for seed testing and safety, hosted workshops on matters like grafting and tree climbing, and funded student projects. Membership is open to all and has grown over time to include representatives from forestry companies, research institutes, nurseries, forestry contractors and consultants.

Recently, a decision was taken to rebrand and re-launch SORWG as the Southern African Tree Seed Working Group (SATS). The new name emphasises a focus on tree seed of all kinds as well as the inclusive nature of the group. An updated vision and mission has been developed, which states the various aims and goals of the group. Chief among these is the bringing together of interested parties to promote research and capacity building in all areas of seed science and ensuring a continued seed supply of the highest quality and genetic diversity.

SATS will continue to meet twice a year to present research and discuss new ideas, and is encouraging new members to join and contribute to a vibrant community of tree seed enthusiasts.
Find the group on LinkedIn, or contact the chairperson at: luke.solomon@sappi.com.

*Luke Solomon is the senior research officer in Sappi’s Seed Technology Programme at the Sappi Shaw Research Centre in Howick, KwaZulu-Natal.


Published in Feb 2013

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