Farmers choose the best and most appropriate seed for their crops. Similarly, it is necessary to choose the best and most appropriate reproductive materials when it comes to the restoration or planting of a forest.
The Latvian Cabinet of Ministers has issued instructions about reproductive material in the forest, and these define the provenance and origin of all important species of tree. There are two areas from which pine trees have originated – the Eastern and Western region. In the case of the fir, there are four – the Eastern, Central, Northern and Western region. The regulations also specify which kinds of reproductive materials are the most appropriate in each specific case. The aim is to prevent the use of inappropriate reproductive materials in the forest.
“Silava”, which is a national institute in the area of forestry studies, has spent more than 30 years in investigating the provenance of pine trees which are appropriate for growing conditions in Latvia. Over the course of the decades, specialists have obtained valuable information. Dr. Imants Baumanis has been particularly active in the research, and he has prepared a report with the following main conclusions:
- Pines from the central parts of Russia and from Ukraine cannot adapt to Latvian conditions, and they die because they lose their needles as a result of strong winds in Latvia.
- Polish and German pines do comparatively well in the Western and central parts of Latvia, but they are more likely to lose their needles, the percentage of surviving trees is lower, trunks tend to be crooked, and branches tend to be thicker;
- Swedish pines have high-quality trunks and thin branches, but they grow more slowly and offer less timber than do pine trees of Latvian origin;
- Pines from the Western parts of Latvia grow more slowly throughout the country and have thicker branches than do pines from the North-Eastern parts of the country.
- Pine trees of the Misa, Zvirgzde, Priedaine and Smiltene origin are the best of their kind in Latvia.
- It is advisable to use seeds from special seed plantations in forest restoration, because such stands of trees will offer 15 to 20% more timber, and their trunks are likely to be less crooked than those of pines originating in the forest.
Since Latvia’s accession to the European Union, the gates have been open for plants from the EU, and I would like to ask forest owners to be particularly careful when selecting these materials. Mistakes will affect the situation for centuries to come, and they will be evident every time when the time has come to cut down some trees. The first consequences will become evident in 30 years or so.
There is a way of making sure that the materials which you are buying for forest restoration are appropriate for your needs. When buying them, demand to see certification on the part of the State Forest Service which speaks to the quality, health and origins of the materials. This certificate is mandatory when reproductive forest materials are sold. If there is no certificate, then there should be no purchase.
What does inappropriate origin mean? Just take a look at the highway which runs from Rîga to Ventspils. There are high-quality local pine trees along that road, but there are also twisted and less-than-productive pines from Germany. These are more than 100 years old. Artists may love them, but what will the timber industry have to say about such trunks?
The Importance of Selection in The Forest
The process of forest selection dates back more than 40 years in Latvia. It began in the latter half of the 1950s, when specialists began to study the best trees in the country. Later the best trees were chosen, seed plantations were installed, inspection of cloned trees was implemented so that the best clones and populations could be selected, plantations were established for new and tested seeds, and plants of various geographic origin were planted and then compared.
A result of all of this is that there is absolute scientific evidence to show that:
The most appropriate trees in Latvia are trees grown from seed that originates in Latvia, and even in specific parts of Latvia, because they:
- Have the straightest trunks and thin branches;
- Do best when planted in the forest;
- Are more resistant to tree diseases and pests;
- Have greater increases in their amount of timber than do other trees.
Restoration materials brought in from other countries often lead to:
- Crooked trunks and fat branches;
- Less of an ability to withstand the winter;
- Greater possibility of being affected by disease and pests;
- Slower-growing trees.
That is why forest selection specialists recommend:
- The use only of plants that are appropriate for local growing conditions;
- The use, as often as possible, of seeds from seed plantations in forest restoration;
- The purchase of plants for forest restoration only from well known and registered growers, those who grow and offer only plants of local origin.
If you observe these suggestions, you will ensure:
- Straight trunks with few branches and high-quality timber;
- Fewer branches, with branches that are thinner and perpendicular to the trunk, thus increasing the quality of the resulting logs.
Scientists in Latvia have proven that when selection is applied in forest restoration, owners of forestland will reach the moment when timber can be harvested at least 15 years sooner than others.
When applying selection to stands of pine, fir and birch, the owner will get at least 80 m3 of timber more than is the case in a forest where selection has not been used – that leads to at least Ls 900 more in earnings.
In a forest where selection principles have been applied, owners will receive at least 40% more fat logs (diameter above 32 cm) than is the case in other forests.
Ever since the early 20th century, fat logs have been prized in the market, and fat pine and fir logs today cost at least Ls 3-5 more per cubic metre. Fat and high-quality birch logs or plywood blocks cost as much as Ls 20 more than thinner logs.
The overall volume of sawnwood will be at least 15% greater.
Sanitary cuttings are possible 35 and 55 years, on average, after the forest is planted, and given that a forest with selection principles will grow more quickly, the owner will get at least 25 or 30 m3 of timber in these cuts. The trees will be somewhat fatter, and additional earnings will amount at least to Ls 75-150.