Sonae Arauco’s forest Research & Development Project aims to identify the right species for the right place, thus supporting forest producers to significantly increase their production. Only on the first year, the Company will invest 150 thousand euros.
The second phase of Sonae Arauco’s Research & Development Project applied to the Portuguese forest has been launched, during which it is expected to plant 21,600 pine trees in an area of circa 24 hectares. The six chosen locations for this purpose are distributed across the North and Center of Portugal and present different types of soil and weather, thus allowing to assess which species better adapt to each context.
This forest project, developed and financed by Sonae Arauco, one of the largest companies in the world of wood solutions, is running since July 2020 and aims to support forest producers to significantly grow their production and in this way contribute to reverse the downward growth trend of planted area in the country.
Nuno Calado, Wood and Sustainability Manager at Sonae Arauco, explains: “The 21 600 pine trees will be planted in Figueira da Foz, in Pombal, Mangualde, Arouca and Ribeira da Pena, in coastal and inland areas, in areas with sandy, schist and granite soils, with an average precipitation that varies between 900 mm/year and 1800 mm/year. We will have 21,600 pine trees from the trial, but around 5500 surround plants”.
The plantation sites were chosen in collaboration with the Conservation Institute for Nature and Plant (in Portuguese, Instituto da Conservação da Natureza e das Florestas, ICNF).
The performance of the 21,600 pine trees – that result from a sowing done at the Furadouro nursery (property of Altri Florestal) of more than 100 thousand seeds of radiata pine and maritime pine from four genetic improvement programs from Portugal, Spain, France and Chile – will be monitored and assessed periodically.
“The complexity of this project is largely connected to the traceability of each species and each plant. It is quite a thorough logistical operation: at this stage, it was necessary to place a tag with a specific code in each plant and we will have to control the whole plantation meticulously”, the manager adds.
The process is currently ongoing and will be repeated next year, in order to eliminate the climate’s effect on the results. At a later stage, the trial areas will also serve as demonstration areas.
In the long run, the project aims to reproduce the selected plants on a scale, enabling forest producers in Portugal to have access to plants of high genetic quality and productivity, contributing to an increase in the profitability of the pine value chain.
Sonae Arauco’s forest R&D project intends to contradict the declining trend of maritime pine that has been registered the last decades, as well as help to align the availability of raw material with the forecast of the market’s increasingly higher demand for sustainable solutions, such as wood.
Between 2005 and 2019, the growth volume of maritime pine registered a decrease of 37%. Between 1995 and 2015, 27% of planted area was lost, which is the equivalent to more than 13.000 soccer fields every year.
As sustainability is an integral part of Sonae Arauco’s strategy, the company aims to be an agent of change in the sector and support the development of the national forest.