Forestry Ink: Replanting badly battered forest landscapes in B.C.

Regular columnist Jim Hilton writes about the potential for using drones in tree planting

Jim Hilton

Observer Contributor

An article in the recent Logging and Sawmilling Journal describes how the silviculture services sector is gearing up for replanting areas impacted by beetles and wildfires.

Author Jim Stirling summarizes the B.C. Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development (FLNRORD) estimate of how the province has been impacted by the disturbances. One of the challenges brought on by a warming climate is planting the best-suited tree seedlings to begin the repair the loss of trees. A precise determination is difficult because there hasn’t been the time or money allocated to get onto the land to precisely assess the damage. But government estimates some 1,750,000 hectares of the harvest land base in the province has been impacted by the disturbances. Sowing requests made in 2018 for growing in the nurseries during 2019 and available for planting in 2020 totalled 308 million seedlings and are on track and represent a 15-per-cent increase from this year’s planting (2019).

Concerns were also being expressed about the declining numbers of available tree planters. Like every other forest industry workers sector, recruiting and retaining tree planters is an expanding problem. One of the exacerbating factors was that government-set minimum wages were gaining on tree planters’ average earnings. It made the physically demanding job less appealing to rookie tree planters. To lessen the impact, wages have been increased for the 2019 planting season by an average 15 per cent.

Some recent technology may also help, which surprisingly is coming from Australia. The BioCarbon Engineering website shows how using swarms of drones could plant up to 400,000 tree seeds each day. The company has a long-term goal of planting 500 billion trees by 2060.

Closer to home, the Canadian Wood Fibre Centre is also doing some testing in Alberta. As their researchers point out, even fast-working tree planters can only plant 2,000 or even 3,000 seedlings a day, while ditching clouds of seeds from a plane is often inaccurate and has a low success rate. The process starts with using drones to map cut blocks at a high resolution to identify the perfect (planting) spots. Planting drones are then sent to fire a seed pod into the precise areas already identified and tracked so herbicide and fertilizers could be applied later.

Some of the other advantages include the following: plant more safely in challenging areas, planting patterns can be automatically generated to match native species to specific areas, multi-species can be planted, and can operate on steep slopes and hillsides.

As with any new technology, there will be many details to work out before drones are likely to replace experienced tree planters, but drones have proven effective already in many forest applications, and tree planting could certainly be another area where they could prove to be part of a tree planter’s toolkit.

A big thanks to Evan for pointing out the YouTube presentation about the use of drones.

Jim Hilton is a professional agrologist and forester who has lived and worked in the Cariboo-Chilcotin for the past 40 years. Now retired, he volunteers his skills with community forests organizations.

READ MORE: Forestry Ink: Who benefits from a free log market?

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

Cariboo-Prince George MP full of gratitude as he’s sworn in for second term

Todd Doherty is eager to get back to work and help families affected by forestry downturn

B.C. First Nation Chief Ed John faces historic sex charges

John served as minister for children and families under then-premier Ujjah Dosanjh

RCMP traffic stop leads to recovery of stolen Peterson Contracting service truck

Welder found in the back of a different vehicle by RCMP

City of Quesnel hosting open house at new Forestry Innovation Centre

The new centre will be open Nov. 16 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Quesnel figure skater competes at Sectionals in Kelowna

Mitchell Dunn is stepping his game up as he faces off against tough competition

VIDEO: B.C. to restrict nicotine content, bring in 20% tax on vaping products

Province will also restrict candy and fruit flavoured vaping products to adult-only stores

B.C. government working with RCMP to address $10 million in budget cuts

Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth issues statement following report of RCMP cost-cutting

‘City that protects rapists’: Sexual assault survivor slams Kelowna mayor for defending RCMP

Heather Friesen spent the morning handing out flyers around city hall calling out the mayor

BC Liquor Stores to move fully to paper bags by March

Vancouver Island to be the first to convert to paper bags in November

Tolko shuts B.C. divisions for two weeks over holidays

Head office to close from Dec. 23-27; two weeks’ downtime runs Dec. 21-Jan. 6

Port Moody mayor says stayed sex assault charge related to ‘awkward date’

Rob Vagramov said charge was related to a string of dates in 2015

UBC conference draws fire over speaker from Chinese tech company blacklisted in U.S.

The company that has been blacklisted by the U.S. over links to the repression of China’s Muslim minority

‘It’s been 12 years’: Father of murdered B.C. real estate agent pleads for mayor’s help

Lindsay Buziak was stabbed to death on Feb. 2, 2008 in Saanich. Her case is unsolved.

B.C. woman sends fight to reduce preventable medical errors to Victoria

Teri McGrath and South Okanagan senior’s centre members presented 150 signature petition to local MLA

Most Read