Buy timber seedlings from a certified nursery

December 31, 2009

The Seedling Growers Association of South Africa (SGASA) was formed in the late 1980s when containerised plant production was the new in thing, prompting seedling growers to get together to share ideas and conduct research. Dr Irwin Smith of the University of Natal, Pietermaritzburg, was asked to provide basic guidelines on plant nutrition and growing medium. Those basic guidelines are still being applied by nurseries today.

Certified nurseries in South Africa
Nursery workers busy with a batch of healthy
Eucalyptus seedlings.


In the 1990s SGASA members started to develop an industry Certification Scheme that would establish best practice and give nurseries a tool to better manage the production of healthy seedlings. ISO, NOSA and SABS guidelines were incorporated into the Standards.

The Certification Scheme is essentially a self-governance initiative that enables nurseries to measure themselves against international best practice to ensure the supply of good quality seedlings to customers. Certified nurseries are required to be audited by an independent auditor once a year.

The presence of Fusarium circinatum in South Africa, and its potential to be spread through infected seedlings, has served to underline the importance of hygiene and good nursery practices. The Pine Fusarium Working Group works closely with SGASA and has added a special section to the Nursery Standards that addresses Fusarium. Section 19 was developed specifically to ensure that Fusarium is controlled to reasonable levels in nurseries so that it does not spread further into plantations. The Working Group has endorsed a call to timber growers to purchase seedlings only from certified nurseries to ensure that Fusarium is controlled.

The Standards include the following criteria:

  • Water, growing medium and container sanitation
  • Water, growing medium and container tractability
  • Basic OSH Act and labour law compliance
  • Track seed from breeders to field
  • Manage chemical usage and adherence to legislation
  • Monitor disease patterns within nurseries with weekly checklists
  • Site appearance and seedling dispatch
  • Basic health and safety measures.

To date, seedling growers have had no direct influence on tree breeding in southern Africa, but have concentrated on producing seedlings. The role of the nurseryman is more specifically to purchase the highest quality seed available and to track that seed source through the growing phase until it is planted out.

All certified nurseries have seedling dispatch notes in place with seed lot number attached. This is vital for site specific areas and species development.

FSC is currently engaged in discussion with SGASA regarding the usage of chemicals in nurseries.

All accredited nurseries receive a certificate valid for one year from the date of a successful audit. An updated list of accredited nurseries can be obtained from the seedling growers' website:

Published in December 2009

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