Ellepot propagation system gaining ground in SA

The Ellepot propagation system is designed to grow seedlings or clones in paper pots and to get them from nursery to field and into the ground with minimum hassle in between. This innovative system brings numerous benefits to the table, and is revolutionising the way nurseries grow and deliver seedlings to customers around the world.

Designed and developed in Denmark, the Ellepot system was introduced to South African forestry in 2017 by Shaun Biggs of Ellepot South Africa, and has already been adopted by a number of leading growers and nurseries in the commercial forestry sector.

The key difference between the Ellepot system vs conventional methods of growing forestry plants is that Ellepots are grown in a paper ‘roll’ (it looks like a fat cigar) that holds the growing medium and root plug together on its journey from the nursery to the field and into the ground, where the paper decomposes naturally and the root system grows out into the soil. There is no transplant shock and the tree is literally growing from day one.

The uniformity, density and resilience of Ellepot seedling plugs makes them well suited to the variable planting conditions found in South Africa, as well as for mechanised planting systems in which the plants are fed into the pit through a planting tube or head.

Benefits of the Ellepot system include:-
• Air pruning … this is the drying off of root tips exposed to air. It promotes secondary root formation and produces a root system that closely resembles a direct sown seed in soil. Thus improved root architecture promotes the growth of active young roots that start growing out as soon as the Ellepot seedling is placed in the soil. The young plant gets off to a good, healthy start, with improved survival, growth and uniformity.
• Root plug density – Ellepots have a higher density/weight than standard loose-filled plugs, thus they are easier to handle and are more resilient, and well suited to mechanised planting systems that rely on gravity to feed the seedling through a tube or into a planting head.
• Water holding capacity – the higher density of the Ellepot improves the water holding capacity of the growing medium, resulting in less transplant shock.
• Improved logistics – Ellepots are easier to handle for the roadside unpacking team as no insert extraction required – and no need to return inserts to the holding nursery.
• Nursery automation – the Ellepot system is fast and efficient allowing quicker turnaround and delivery of seedlings and clonal planting material.
• Survival and growth - Growth differences observed range from no difference when planting conditions are ideal, to 30% biomass gain on harsh sites, according to Shaun. Survival gain ranges from 5-8%, depending on site and planting conditions.

Ellepot South Africa is the partner in South Africa that supplies and supports the system from Ellepot machines to the specialised papers for the pots, trays, service and back-up. Sappi was the first South African forestry company to test the system in South Africa after extensive trials, and currently has two large Ellepot machines operating at their nurseries.

Since then, a number of South Africa’s leading forestry nurseries have invested in Ellepot technology and are able to supply their clients forestry plants grown in Ellepots. According to Shaun, most foresters ask for their plants to be exclusively supplied in Ellepots once they have trialled the system in field.

The system also provides an opportunity to relook at the Plant Quality Index and the specs required by foresters, as there is more scope for flexibility and innovation with the stabilised Ellepot media. There are also opportunities to move towards mechanised silviculture and to relook at the logistics of getting plants to the field.

The Ellepot system was founded in Denmark in 1993, and is now operating in 120 countries around the world, producing around five billion Ellepots a year. The system is being used in commercial forestry as well as fruit and nut trees and vegetable crops.

Shaun says that there is a strong focus on R&D within the Ellepot group. “There is an impressive pipeline of new machines, papers and trays, and Ellepot South Africa has been working closely with Ellepot Denmark on testing new products,” said Shaun. “This will undoubtedly lead to further gains in transplant performance and growth infield.”

For more info visit: www.ellepot.com/za