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Fast-growing tree species for industrial plantations in developing countries


A condensed version of a paper contributed by FAO to a meeting of the United Nations Advisory Committee on the Application of Science and Technology to Development (Paris, March 1965), a body set up by the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations (ECOSOC).

THIS ARTICLE first reviews the possibilities of plantations of fast-growing tree species in the developing countries as a means of supplying future industrial roundwood requirements, both for domestic use and export. It then examines the progress so far made in creating these plantations and, lastly, reviews the principal problems in connection with plantation establishment and management that have yet to be solved.

Fast-growing species are considered as those capable of a mean annual increment of at least 10 cubic meters per hectare under favorable site conditions and providing appropriate techniques are used for ground preparation and for the establishment, care and tending of the plantations. Developing countries are those so classified for the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development.


Area of plantations


Current rate of planning




1,000 hectares/year

1,000 hectares

Latin America


1 100

1 600



Asia Pacific


1 500

1 650



Near East














3 470

4 375



Plantations are treated on a global basis, placing the overall position of the developing countries within the framework of world economy. It must be admitted, however, that such an approach conceals many details, and more localized studies are indispensable.

Despite the paucity of factual data, some indication is given of the internal rate of return which can be expected from plantations of fast-growing species. This, however, gives only a partial and inexact justification, in that it is nearly impossible to express in quantitative terms the high indirect benefits and social values of afforestation work. Many developing countries have taken a policy decision to include large-scale afforestation with fast-growing species in their development plans (Table 1). The establishment of such plantations can be a viable project from both an economic and social point of view providing it is conceived and executed as an integral part of an overall local or national development plan, preferably within a group-country and, ultimately a regional, context.

Future needs for wood


In recent years,1 the developing countries have been annually consuming about 100 million cubic meters of industrial wood plus a further 600 million cubic meters of fuelwood.

1 The base period figures used in this paper refer unless stated otherwise to the annual average for the years 1959-61.

The extent to which this wood is used in each form by region is shown in Table 2, which also gives an estimate of how this consumption is expected to grow in the interval to 1975. The estimates are related to specific levels of populations and economic activity - the levels considered most likely to emerge by 1975. As such, the levels of consumption will come about only in as far as these underlying variables grow at the rates assumed. It has been assumed that populations will grow at 1.5 to 2.5 percent annually in the different regions, and that on average real income per caput will grow at 2 to 2.5 percent per year. Even with these conservative assumptions of economic activity, annual consumption of wood is expected to grow by two thirds between 1959-61 and 1975 - a growth equivalent to an additional consumption of 75 million cubic meters of roundwood a year by 1975 - or, at 1959-61 prices, about U.S. $3,000 million more of wood products each year by 1975, These estimates also rest upon the assumption that wood will not become relatively more expensive than alternative materials, and before considering the principal question of this paper - can the additional quantity be supplied - the latter point of relative cost warrants further consideration.


SOURCE: FAO/United Nations regional timber trends studies (including unpublished and revised data).

1 Average annual consumption.

The variety of uses to which wood products are put indicates how, and to what extent, wood is a basic material for larger, better housed, more literate populations with rising incomes. A high cost supply of wood would mean not only more expensive housing, but often a shift to other materials, which would have to be imported. In some uses, such as printing and writing, there is little alternative material, though by 1959-61 the developing countries were already importing wood products, mainly paper and paperboard, to the value of more than U.S. $600 million a year.

It is also important to recognize the uses for which the wood produced from fast-growing plantations would be suitable. For example, the large sizes and particular qualities, which go to make the plywood, veneer and quality sawnwood from the tropical rain forests and better coniferous forests of the north, could not be supplied, although some sawnwood and plywood over a limited range of quality and size is already provided. However, the variety of fast-growing species available can provide material well suited to the full range of pulp products required and for the manufacture of fibreboard and particle board - the fastest growing wood products. As is shown in Table 2, consumption of paper and paperboard is expected to grow at an average of nearly 7 percent per year, and fibreboard and particle board at about 12 percent between 1959-61 and 1975. By contrast, consumption of sawnwood is expected to grow only, at about 3 percent and plywood at 5 ½ percent. If attention is restricted to these categories - namely pulp, some panels and roundwood (poles, posts, etc.) - it is seen that the aggregate increase in annual requirements of these is about 35 million cubic meters by 1975. But, as pulp and panels are high-value processed products, they account for U.S. $2,000 million of the U.S. $3,000 million increase in the total value of the developing countries' additional requirements of all wood products by 1975.

Whether the developing countries can satisfy their fast-growing domestic requirements rests on more than the availability of an appropriate wood supply. For instance, the processing industries, notably the pulp and paper industries, are subject to significant economies of scale. Domestic production, therefore, becomes feasible only when a plant has a market of a certain minimum size. To translate such preliminary global appraisals as are deployed in this paper into developments on the ground thus requires, inter alia, examination of the size and situation of individual countries and groups of countries, and of their requirements and possibilities.


To complete the appraisal, consideration must be given to possible requirements outside the developing countries, which they might supply. Recent studies have drawn attention to impeding wood deficits in western Europe and Japan, which have traditionally drawn upon North America and the U.S.S.R. Prospects for the developing countries meeting part of this impending demand are bright, and if the necessary assistance was forthcoming from the developed countries (provision of capital, training, etc.), and the necessary steps taken by the developing countries (development of infrastructure, plant, skills, etc.), the latter might expect to export up to 600,000 metric tons of pulp and pulp products a year by 1975 (equivalent to about 2 million cubic meters of roundwood); a trade worth U.S. $175 million at 1959-61 prices.1

1 These estimates take no account of China (Mainland). Published projections there indicate an expected consumption of 118.5 million cubic meters by 1972, of which only 80 million cubic meters is expected to come from the country's forests. Despite a massive planting program China (Mainland) may need to import part of its requirements.


This exercise is naturally in part hypothetical. Many markets will remain too small and many of the more specialized products can be supplied more cheaply from other parts of the world. But scope exists for producing part of the U.S. $600 million worth of products which the developing world already imports annually (the pulp and paper component of this trade is about three-quarters of the total value and is equivalent to 6 million cubic meters of roundwood a year).

By 1975 the developing countries should produce, in addition to what they produced in 1959-61, a large part of the 24 million cubic meters of wood a year needed for the additional pulp and panel products required for their domestic markets, part of the 6 million cubic meters that would replace present imports of products, and a possible further 2 million cubic meters of wood for pulp product exports - and all of the additional 11.5 million cubic meters of wood for use in the round each year. The next step in assessing how this consumption might be met is to consider the physical and economic potential of the existing forest resources.

Natural forests: Potential and limitations

The main natural forest sources of industrial roundwood in the developing countries are the tropical rain and moist deciduous forests, and the tropical conifer forests (the productive tropical high forests); the contribution of the other types is unlikely to be more than marginal.

Pending release of the results of a 1963 study by FAO the best available figures for the overall area, growing stock and increment of the productive tropical high forests are given in the 1958 FAO World forest inventory. It was then estimated that the total area of forest land in the developing countries is about 2.25 million hectares, of which perhaps 1,000 million is productive tropical high forest, though only 320 million hectares of this area is classed as permanent forest set aside for growing trees on a sustained basis.

Best available estimates of harvest indicate that about 700 million cubic meters of roundwood a year are being removed from the forests of the developing countries (mostly for fuel). In practice, much of this comes from uncontrolled, destructive felling of unreserved forests and it is most unlikely that the permanent forest area could sustain this drain over a period of time.

The location and nature of the natural forest in most developing countries is such that the forests are subject to severe limitations as a source of supply of industrial wood. Even wide margins of error in estimates of their physical volume are likely to be dwarfed by the magnitudes of the quantities which are technically unusable, or which would be prohibitively costly to use. Major limitations of the natural forest can be summarized as follows:

1. The crop is commonly composed of many species of different characteristics. Their variety gives rise to problems in processing for industrial purposes. It makes whole crop harvesting difficult, if not impossible, and even for purposes for which such harvesting is practicable the variety of the crop may entail expensive presorting of logs before processing.

2. Under current technical and economic conditions only comparatively few species - generally between a quarter and a tenth - of the crop are normally usable for industrial purposes. Consequently, harvesting is far from intensive, and in many cases it is uneconomic to harvest the crop at all.

3. Many species not used have undesirable characteristics which are not easy to overcome, and although eventually it may be possible largely to eliminate these by silvicultural treatment, this process will take much time.

4. Inaccessibility of the major areas of productive high forests remains a key problem. The probability of the development of much cheaper wood transportation systems (by means of pipelines, for example) cannot be ignored, but it is likely that these developments will take place primarily in the more developed countries during the period taken into consideration for the purposes of this article.

5. Finally, the tropical high forests are mostly capable of only a low rate of volume increment. Data are scarce but it seems that, in the absence of intensive silvicultural treatment, the mean annual increment of most tropical broad-leaved forest is unlikely to exceed 1 to 2 cubic meters per hectare. Experience so far indicates that with appropriate silvicultural treatment the rate of increment could be increased considerably, but how much has yet to be proved and time will be needed. Even if the increment were increased fivefold, it would still fall short of that achievable by most quick-growing plantation species.

Advantages of quick-growing plantations

Quick-growing species offer important advantages for the purposes of industrial roundwood supply that merit amplification:

1. Appropriate choice of species enables a homogenous crop to be produced of the wood raw material best suited, within the limitations of the site conditions, to the end product or products required.

Plantations allow close control of the nature and quality of the raw material, and yield a crop of which all elements are harvestable. These are important advantages, the first especially for the complex manufacturing processes, and are a marked contrast to the difficulties and consequent expense that are commonly imposed by the diverse nature of moist, tropical natural forest crops.

2. Compared with growth rates given above for tropical high forests, mean annual increments of more than 50 cubic meters per hectare per year have been reported for some eucalyptus fuelwood plantations over short rotations (6 to 8 years) in Africa. These, however, have been achieved only under the most favorable site conditions and the majority of figures are lower. For eucalyptus pulpwood and pole plantations, representative figures would be 20 to 30 cubic meters per hectare per year in South America, and 15 to 25 cubic meters in tropical Africa. On drier sites these figures would be still lower and might well drop below 10 cubic meters per hectare per year. For the quicker-growing pines and Cupressus species grown for timber, an average figure would be 12 to 17 cubic meters per hectare per year, while broad-leaved timber species, such as teak, will seldom achieve much more than 10 cubic meters per hectare per year except on the best sites. With such rates of growth, plantations of quick-growing species can produce saw logs of acceptable size in substantial quantities at age 20 onward, and pulpwood in from 10 to 12 years.

3. The homogenous nature of the crop combined with its high growth rate provides very high outturns of harvestable wood per hectare. This may be of great advantage in countries which are short of land for food production or settlement, or in which good plantable land is scarce; it also reduces the costs of protection and supervision. In harvesting, too, the high outturns per hectare and uniform nature of the crop make for lower costs per unit of wood extracted.

4. Provided suitable land is available, plantations give management the opportunity to site its raw material source and processing plant to the best advantage, economically, in relation to markets and to each other.

5. Finally, quick-growing plantations can be profitable financial undertakings. No wealth of data has yet been published, but internal rates of return as high as 12 and 15 percent on the first two rotations have already been reported, which - leaving aside all the intangible indirect benefits can be regarded as attractive from a strictly financial point of view. In addition, a return will accrue to the State from taxation on increased earnings resulting from employment and profits of industry based on plantations; this might be equivalent to a further 2 to 3 percent on the money invested.

Although the principal justification for establishment of plantations may be for their economic value, another attraction is that, by using the underemployed or unemployed labor frequently to be found in developing countries, the rural economy may be diversified and social conditions improved through the subsequent establishment of co-operatives and small industries. Often the techniques to be employed for plantation establishment are already known to rural communities, and the low wage rates commonly prevailing in many developing countries permit the production of roundwood at much lower cost than in most developed countries. Tree plantations often offer opportunities for combining resettlement with food production (taungya), a point of some importance to many countries.

In view of the above it seems likely that the already established trend of many developing countries to focus increasing attention on quick-growing plantations will continue. Plantations, however, also are more prone than natural forest to risk such as diseases or insect attacks, fires and other calamities. Where natural forests exist they should be developed, within the limits of economics and utility of the crop, to hedge against the risks attendant on plantations.

Progress in the creation of quick-growing plantations

Few countries have any sizable areas which were planted before the early 1920s, and in most countries extensive planting has only been undertaken within the last 20 years. In consequence, only a small proportion of the timber plantations is as yet producing harvestable sawlogs in any significant quantity.

Much early planting was for the supply of poles and fuel, but in recent years more attention has been given to planting for timber and industrial processes, such as pulping. There are few developing countries which are not now undertaking or contemplating some planting program for these purposes.

In the following paragraphs the main achievements in planting to date (in respect of area, distribution and species) are outlined, and progress in relation to future needs is reviewed.


Available data indicate that by the end of 1964 an area of about 4.4 million hectares of quick-growing plantations had been established in the developing countries. Further details were given in Table 1.


In composition, about one quarter (approximately 900,000 hectares) of these plantations are coniferous species and three-quarters (approximately 3,500,000 hectares) broadleaved.

The principal coniferous species, in order of importance (figures are approximate) are: Pinus radiata (300,000 hectares), Pinus patula (200,000 hectares), Pinus merkusii (100,000 hectares), Araucaria angustifolia (100,000 hectares), and Cupressus spp. (40,000 hectares). Many other coniferous species are currently planted on a substantial scale and a wide range of species is currently on trial in nearly all areas.

The principal broadleaved species, in order of importance, are Eucalyptus spp. (1,300,000 hectares), teak (1,000,000 hectares), poplars and willows (150,000 hectares) and wattles (150,000 hectares).

As with coniferous species, many other broadleaved species have been planted in smaller quantities and a great number are on trial.


It is difficult because of differences in sites, growth rates, etc., to make more than a rough estimate of what the total annual yield from these plantations might be. On the basis of the figures quoted in the preceding section, however, the total mean annual increment to harvesting age of the present plantations would amount to around 45 million cubic meters. In other words, the present plantations should be able to sustain a yield of about 45 million cubic meters a year. This is equivalent to nearly half the present annual drain of industrial roundwood from the forests (108 million cubic meters), but much - perhaps two thirds - of the timber plantation area is not yet harvestable and makes no contribution to present supplies.


Table. 2 showed that roundwood equivalent requirements in 1975 for fibreboard and particle board, paper and paperboard, and wood used in the round (such as poles) amount to about 85 million cubic meters. It was considered that plantations would be most likely to supply these products, but any meaningful analysis of the source of raw material - natural forest or plantations - depends on regional or district assessments of the net cost for supplying additional wood.

However, the contrast between the advantages of plantations and limitations of the natural forest has been mentioned. Thus, Table 3 has been developed as a consideration of the comparison between future needs and the estimated yield of existing plantations for the year 1975, and a further consideration of needs and yield for the year 2000 if the present rate of planting were to be sustained.

An initial assessment of columns 4 and 6 is encouraging. However, closer consideration shows that firstly, as much as 10.2 of the figure 16.5 in column 6 for the Asia-Pacific region is yield from teak plantations that will almost certainly be converted into plywood and sawnwood. Secondly, a substantial percentage - perhaps one third - of existing plantations already contributes to consumption, while another large part has been established without proper consideration to location in relation to markets and processing plants, and the economic accessibility of these plantations is doubtful. Thirdly, the species chosen are not always suited to the characteristics of the site, with consequent reduction of their growth rate; nor have their wood properties always been taken into account, thus decreasing their usability. Fourthly, the estimated requirements account neither for the possibility of replacing in part at least the 6 million cubic meters of wood for pulp products at present imported by the developing countries, for the 2 million cubic meters of wood for possible pulp products exports, nor for the possibility that some part of the requirements of China (Mainland) might have to be met through imports. On the other hand, as already mentioned, not all the additional requirements for the more specialized products - and especially those subject to significant economies of scale can be produced in the developing countries, nor is all paper and paperboard manufactured from wood. It thus seems justifiable to conclude that existing plantations in the developing world will at best be barely adequate to meet anticipated domestic requirements in the year 1975 for paper and paperboard, wood used in the round, and fibreboard and particle board. They are more likely to fall short of needs, especially if account is made for export openings and import saving.

Looking ahead to the end of this century, a comparison of the totals in columns 8 and 9 of Table 3 shows that, if the current rate of plantation establishment is sustained, it is estimated that these plantations will not even be able to satisfy estimated additional domestic requirements for paper and paperboard alone. These calculations are based on the assumption that all the required paper and paperboard will be manufactured from wood in the developing countries, although this is unlikely to materialize. It should not however be overlooked that, although estimates of the additional requirements for the year 2000 cannot be made now for the other products most likely to be obtained from plantations (such as wood used in the round and wood for fibreboard and particle board), these nevertheless constitute about 40 percent of the additional requirements for 1975, as shown in Table 3. On the assumption that by the year 2000 any new increase in the needs for wood used in the round and for fibreboard and particle board will be offset by increased output from the natural forest and by a certain utilization of other materials, maintaining the current rate of planting for the next 25 years thus seems to be an inadequate program for the developing world as a whole. If the current rate of planting could be only sustained for the next 25 years, it would still entail a planting program of the magnitude of more than 8 million hectares for the developing world, of which about 7 million hectares would be roughly equally divided between Latin America and the Asia-Pacific region, with more than 1 million hectares in Africa. To achieve such planting targets will require much land not hitherto regarded as plantable, use of new or improved species, development of new or improved techniques, a greatly expanded knowledge of costs and benefits associated with producing wood, and large resources of professional staff and funds. The following sections briefly consider some problems likely to arise and the way in which assistance may be offered for their solution.

Table 3. - Estimated additional roundwood requirements1 for 1975 (also for the year 2000) in developing countries for paper and paperboard, wood used in the round, fibreboard and particle board; area of existing (1964) quick-growing plantations, estimated yield as of 1975, and current rate of planting and estimated yield as of the year 2000.

Estimated additional requirements for 1975

Area of existing plantations

Estimated annual yield as of 1975

Current of rate planting

Estimated additional requirements 1 for year 2000 for paper & paper-board 2

Estimated annual yield as of year 2000 if the current rate of plantations is sustained

Paper and paper- board

Wood used in the round

Fibreboard and particle board











Millions cubic meters ®

Millions ha

Millions m³

Millions ha/yr

Millions m³ ®

Millions m³

Latin America










Near East










Asia Pacific






























1 Over 1959-61 average annual consumption. - 2 It should be noted that this estimate is confined to paper and paperboard, the only product group for which meaningful estimates can be made this far into the future. The estimates assume average rates of growth of 2.5 percent per annum in population, and 2 percent per year in income per caput for each region. They further assume an average requirement of 2.75 cubic meters of roundwood per ton of paper and paperboard in each region.

Recent important advances in knowledge and techniques

The main advances that have occurred in recent years in knowledge about quick-growing plantation species, and the techniques of creating and managing them, are set out below.

As a result of greater appreciation of needs through inventories, timber trends studies, etc., many forest authorities in developing countries now have a better appreciation of the extent and purposes for which planting is likely to be needed.

Because of the desire to avoid the risks associated with monocultures and the need to extend planting to new sites, there has been a widening of the variety of species used and under trial. This has resulted in improved techniques for testing species, better choice of species and more attention to choice of provenance. The importance of using source identified seed from selected mother trees has also become better appreciated as well as the potential improvements in yield and wood properties resulting from tree breeding.

As experience of planting has widened and evidence has accumulated of the effects of site differences on performance, the importance of careful site selection before planting has become increasingly appreciated. In consequence, a good deal of attention has been directed in recent years to the evolution of methods for evaluating and classifying site productivity, and there has also been some growth in knowledge of the site requirements of different species, although in general this has lagged behind other advances in the field of site selection.

In recent years there has been greater realization of the benefits occurring from thorough preplanting cultivation, such as deep plowing and subsoiling, especially on the more and sites and, where the taungya system is impracticable, the increasing use of mechanical methods for clearing and cultivation. Advances have also been made in respect of plant production, resulting in a tougher and more vigorous plant for the field.

Research on tending operations - such as weeding, thinning and pruning - and postplanting cultivation practices has resulted in greater realization of the beneficial effect of such operations.

There have been beneficial advances made in the understanding and control of pests, diseases and fires, which constitute hazards to many plantations.

Gains have been made in respect of the utilization properties of several species, especially in regard to their pulping characteristics, and in respect of their mechanical properties, especially strength, in relation to rates of growth and age. Conversion techniques for fast-grown logs have improved, but much remains to be learned.

Although there has been some increase in the knowledge of cost benefit ratios of various operations, knowledge remains meager. This is both remarkable and regrettable when the magnitude of investment in existing and projected plantations is considered.

Outstanding needs and problems

Despite these advances in theoretical knowledge, practical application has been uneven. Moreover, there are plenty of gaps which still need to be filled, and problems to be solved. These can be grouped into eight main sectors: planning, the promotion of plantations through institutional measures, the extension of planting into new areas, the selection of new species and the improvement of currently used species, the improvement of tending techniques, protection, utilization, and last, but far from least in importance and priority, economics.


A prime requisite for planning is a clear and precise definition of the future production targets, defined both qualitatively and quantitatively and of the areas in which it is intended to produce them. The bases for these plans must accordingly be as close an appraisal as possible of:

(a) future roundwood needs and industry opportunities;
(b) existing forest resources and their potential;
(c) plantable land;
(d) professional and technical resources.

For a number of countries, however, only (d) is normally well known, and meanwhile, planting is proceeding piecemeal and without well-defined or comprehensive objectives. One of the most urgent needs, therefore, is for the developing countries to examine their future roundwood requirements, including the opportunities for developing new forest industries, and how they can supply them. One obstacle occurring in several instances will be lack of professional staff competent to collect and evaluate the necessary basic data. Assistance from outside agencies will frequently be required.


Even when economic prerequisites and technical solutions exist, institutional and structural obstacles inherent in the land tenure pattern or in existing rights of usage have often to be overcome. Timber plantations are, for example, often established by private enterprise and two main problems must then be tackled through institutional means; one to ensure that appropriate economic and technical knowledge reaches the prospective planter, the other being the provision of adequate incentives. Institutional devices to stimulate private interest include establishment of planting cooperatives as well as cost/benefit sharing contracts, tax exemption and credit facilities. Several countries (such as Argentina, Chile and Ecuador) where successful tree planting programs have been carried out owe much of their success to institutional measures.


As the more favorable sites become planted up and the competition for land for food production and other uses increases, so land hitherto ignored will have to be considered. Extension into new areas, however, will frequently entail higher risks, heavier investments, and smaller returns unless new techniques are developed to solve the problems posed by the new environment. An important need, therefore, is an expansion of research into the problems of making quick-growing plantations in the drier and generally lower areas (including lowland rain forest zones) and, wherever the creation of multipurpose dams makes it possible, into the problems of irrigated tree plantations. Special attention should be given to the use of fertilizers and to the establishment of plantations on hitherto agricultural land that has been abandoned due to increased salinity. This research will take time and should be put in hand with all possible speed.


Two of the main groups of species in which much interest is likely to be shown for new conditions are the drier zone eucalypts and the lowland conifers of Central America and Mexico. Many of these species occur in remote areas and are not used commercially, and the collection of small quantities of seed for experimental trials will in many cases be a matter of some difficulty. One possibility for alleviating the problem would be the establishment of regional seed-collecting teams, financed on a co-operative basis or by some outside agency; another would be the addition of a seed collecting and distributing section to regional or country silvicultural research centers. The ultimate solution to this problem lies in the establishment by the countries concerned of seed orchards in which seed of the selected species and provenances is raised. So far few developing countries have done this, but some are now beginning. Much more impetus and progress is needed in this field.

Another aspect of species selection on which further work is needed is tree breeding to improve the performance and properties of selected species. Interest in the possibilities of tree breeding in these respects has grown in the developing countries in the past few years, but has not so far been translated into much concrete action in the form of research, except in a very few countries. It is highly desirable that more research on breeding should be put in hand, though specialized staff will in many instances need to be supplied by outside agencies.


Tending operations for plantations are generally fairly labor-intensive. In the drier areas cultivation and weeding operations usually have to be concentrated into the relatively short rainy period and, except for a few countries, the creation and tending of plantations on the scale envisaged is likely to give rise to severe labor problems, especially in the drier areas, which are generally more sparsely populated. To resolve these, mechanized methods need to be evolved for as many operations as practicable, and especially for ground clearing, cultivation and weeding. The evolution of mechanical methods for forest plantation establishment is, however, still largely in its infancy in the developing countries, and since methods which are successful in one country or under one set of conditions are not necessarily successful in another, any countries contemplating planting on any scale where there is no established experience of mechanized methods should initiate research as soon as possible. Unfortunately, many operations require powerful, expensive equipment, such as heavy tractors, rippers and deep plows, and ways of overcoming the difficulty of financial assistance are not easy to find.

Considerable research is still required on the techniques to be employed of other tending operations such as weeding, thinning, pruning, fertilizer application and irrigation, with particular emphasis on the cost/benefit ratio.


Continued research is needed toward improving the level of protection of plantations from insects, diseases, fire and other enemies. Problems primarily consist of the need for co-ordination of research efforts and plans for joint control work with special emphasis on the need to disseminate information on control procedures and make certain such procedures are applied.


The need to extend our knowledge of the utilization properties of many quick-growing species and to improve the utilization of them, both through developing alternative uses and through improved methods of utilization, is rapidly becoming more acute.

With regard to the first there is already considerable knowledge available for some plantation species now in wide use, but for many of the potential species little appears to be known. More research is also needed into the effects of different sites and different ages, rates of growth and tending practices on timber properties.

With regard to the second need (to improve the utilization of plantation timbers in view of the very large proportion of the total area planted that eucalypts constitute and the large future demands for saw timber) perhaps the greatest problem is to devise some method of converting young quick-grown eucalyptus logs to sawn timber without excessive losses from warping, splitting, buckling, etc. Because of the great potential of eucalypts for meeting future timber requirements, the prize to be gained by the solution of this problem would be very great.

Another problem which requires solution in some countries is that of finding alternative uses for certain quick-growing plantation species which have been plant ed for the supply of firewood or poles, or wattle for bark, and for which demands have declined and show no signs of reviving.

A third problem, for countries in tropical areas where termites and other wood-destroying agents abound, is preservation treatment.

For the solution of these problems, utilization research centers on a country or, in some circumstances, on a regional basis need to be established.


One of the most striking gaps in our knowledge of quick-growing plantations is in economics. This gap concerns both plantation cost and knowledge of the effects on profitability of the various operations and of modifications of them. Quick-growing plantations normally require a good deal of expenditure in the early years on ground preparation, weeding and tending, and by the time of harvesting the cumulative costs of these, including compound interest, can be considerable, especially for timber crops because of their longer rotation. Yet only in some developed countries has much research been done in these fields.

Another question on which more information is needed is the profitability of quick-growing plantations, both in the sense of financial return on the money invested and in relation to the economy of the country as a whole. If governments or other organizations are to be persuaded to invest money in quick-growing plantations, they must be shown that such plantations are profitable and, in many cases, that they are more profitable than alternative forms of land-use. In relation to the economy of the country as a whole, plantations may also give important gains from savings on imports and freights, from earnings of foreign currency, and from the creation of new possibilities for employment.

Two reasons for this lack of knowledge are that in the majority of developing countries the bulk of at least the timber plantations are not yet old enough for final crop data and profits to be ascertained, and that few of the developing countries have forest economists to undertake the necessary investigations. Nevertheless, the substantial investment that many of these countries are now making, or plan to make, in plantations make it imperative that more information be obtained, as a matter of urgency, in the broad outlines cited here.

Technical assistance

In conclusion, it is appropriate to review briefly what FAO through its Forestry and Forest Products Division, is doing to help solve the problems and fill the gaps which have been indicated, and to suggest ways in which this help might be increased through multilateral and bilateral aid programs.


Complete lists of the various field projects applicable to this paper that have been executed, are under execution or are under consideration for execution, through the assistance of the Forestry and Forest Products Division of FAO under the Expanded Program of Technical Assistance, the Special Fund or other sources of funds cannot be included here. However, Table 4 below has been prepared to give an indication of the scope and emphasis of current activities.

Table 4 shows that at present the weight of assistance is in the planning sector, which is to be expected since developing countries are probably least able to undertake this type of work due to lack of experienced staff.




Forest management2

Utilization and industries

Educational, training and institutional projects















Asia Pacific






Latin America



1 9



Near East












1 Including inventory feasibility and marketing studies.

2 Including afforestation, silviculture, watershed and range management, wildlife, protection and logging projects.

3 Includes an intraregional study.

Geographically, the main weight of assistance is in Latin America, which is gratifying because future demands appear to exceed the supplies available much more in Latin America than in any other developing region (Table 3). Considering, however, the size and complexity of the Asia-Pacific region and of Africa, it is surprising that more assistance has not been sought from countries of these two regions. However, although Table 4 may reflect the general situation at present, it should be carefully noted that absences of projects may be due to the fact that certain problems may not arise in some countries, or they may be under investigation already through either the countries' own or bilateral sources.

In addition to field projects, FAO of course also renders assistance under its regular program, for instance, by the compilation and dissemination of information, by advice on research and problems referred to the Organization, and by help in the procurement of seed. Examples of the first are various monographs on species and methods for creating plantations of quick-growing species and the organization of consultations, conferences, symposia and study tours.


This article has highlighted the anticipated demand and supply for developing countries, emphasized the advantages of artificial forests over natural forests for the economic production of homogenous supplies of roundwood, and made certain suggestions as to how the impending needs for expansion of plantation activities can best be satisfied.

Unfortunately, the term quick-growing species plantations has given a false connotation to many persons who believe that some new species raised within certain environmental conditions will quickly solve their domestic difficulties and contribute to their export program. This is far from the truth. Plantation forestry has been in existence for hundreds of years, but recent techniques and scientific advances have created a new sphere of forestry activity. The potential benefits from such plantations may be great, but investments in expertise and capital are high. Planning, execution and administration along the lines of any modern competitive business operation are required.

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