Sappi Southern Africa
Sustainability Report

ENSURING THE
SUSTAINABILITY OF
OUR PLANTATIONS: CANARIES IN A MINE

In days gone by, miners would lower canaries in a cage into the mine shaft to determine levels of toxic gases and whether it was safe for people to enter the shaft.

Our Sentinel trials are based on similar principles. The rapid increase in pests and diseases entering South Africa is a major challenge to the long-term sustainability of Sappiā€™s plantations. Furthermore, with rapidly changing environments, we have seen previously productive and healthy varieties succumb rapidly to either new pests or even pests that in themselves are adapting and evolving. Accordingly, we continuously monitor our land base by establishing test plots that include a large diversity of our varieties across a range of environments and at different ages. This is because different pests and diseases attack trees at different stages of growth.

Sentinel trials in high risk areas such as Zululand are established with all varieties, developed by our inhouse breeding programme, and are monitored for pest and disease symptoms on a continual basis (every six months). These trials are replicated four times and, at regular intervals, one replication is felled and allowed to coppice. These coppiced trees are physiologically young and will thus be exposed to a different set of pest/disease than the more adult trees. The result is that at any one time, all varieties are present on the same site at different physiological ages. These trials thus provide excellent monitoring plots for changes in the pest and disease populations over time, site and age.

The plantation industry in South Africa faces an increasing threat from pests and diseases, as well as climate change. Sappi Forests works hard to mitigate these risks.