Tree pests and diseases pose the biggest threat to timber plantation productivity. Controlling pests and diseases in over a million hectares of plantations is no small task, and every year in South Africa, the industry spends tens of millions of Rands on pest and disease control.
Bacteria, fungi, insects, parasites, weeds and animals can all become pests, if their influence disrupts the timber plantation's productivity or its commercial viability.
Yet one group - insects - seems to have a far more devastating effect than any other. Thanks to a suite of options, ranging from changing the tree species, to a host of biological and pesticide control methods, managing pest species in South Africa's timber plantations is not only improved, it's now also done in ways that minimises unintentional environmental and social impacts.
With legislation becoming ever more stringent, pest and disease management options need to be increasingly more effective as well as pest or disease specific. To this end, partnerships with academic institutions have become one of the most exciting aspects of forestry. Together, we are constantly improving our understanding of pests and diseases, while developing new approaches to manage them.