Friday, August 19, 2011

Harvesting Pinus (family Pinaceae of coniferous evergreen tree)

Reap What You Sow;  

The Conservator of Forest is right now harvesting acres of Pinus cultivations that have matured   in the Haldummulla range of Haputale. Large extent of land is made bare after felling the trees. There definitely is a programme for replanting and I guess it would be of exotic Eucalyptus gum varieties or Pinus; as indigenous forest plants take longer time to create a forest cover against the elements. 

Harvesting Pinus - Haldummulla
Land made bare after harvest - awaiting re-plantation

Pinus and gum trees are said to have quicker growth rate and are said to be advantages in this aspect. I recall there was much writing and discussions on the subject of giving exotic plant cover to our mountaintops in the upper water shed management areas. There was much debate when Pinus was preferred to other plants by the Forest Department (FD). Pinus is said to draw up the water table affecting our ground water resources etc. There was to be much displeasure when the FD decided to plant the buffer zone of the Sinharaja Forest with Pinus; saying there would not be an understorey and ground foliage; the pine needles are acidic and create a thick blanket baring seedlings contact with soil. These may be true.  Professors Savithri and Nimal Gunathilake’s of Peradeniya fame experimented with a plot of Pinus in Kudawa, Sinharaja by planting an understorey with the indigenous foliage found in the Singharaja forest understorey and it was a success. This was on an experiment basis and the Pinus are non-harvestable in order to sustain the said understorey.  One needs to understand that these exotic plants have a quicker growth rate and a short term investment cycle. We are now getting used to medium density timbers for our woody requirements. Hard wood timbers are rare and beyond buying capacities. As such I have my special consideration towards Pines and Eucalyptus.

I am not a botanist but am aware of the elementary plant science of seed dispersion and photosynthesis etc. I have some gray areas that need to be cleared by the Botany scolars. Driving to Badulla via Balangoda was when I came across these clearings and saw Pinus saplings that were growing very healthily on the newly rehabilitated road embankment. 

Road embankment with healthy Pinus saplings

Pinus taking root in embankment

I know that these were not planted by the RDA or any such body. Reference in the web showed that many are the types of Pinus and I get the feeling that it is the Red Pine that we plant over here. (I may be wrong)  The male and female cones develop in the same tree and seed dispersion is by the fertilized cones drying up to split open dispersing the seed while in some cases the birds open the cones to carry the seed away. I see no reason why a bird needs to be on a bare embankment and drop a seed for germination.

There is said to be types of Pinus that disperse  seeds through wind; this justifies the reason to grow on the embankment. But again why only on the embankments and not on the other lands that surround the Pinus plantations? I wonder if the seeds have a specific timeline to contact soil for growth or wilt away. Is it correct to think; the right time to harvest is when they start dispersing their seeds.  

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