The road to success...

How we build great plantations

February 10, 2014


We’d like to introduce you to our recent plantation acquisition, San Andrés. At 843 acres in total, we’ve identified 553 acres of plantable land and placed 290 acres into our Forestry Easement Trust. But, far from simply purchasing land and then planting trees, we go through rigorous procedures to transform every plantation into professional commercial forestry land.

Having already passed our initial tests, which include soil samples and topography checks, San Andrés was ready for transformation. 

First and foremost, appropriate infrastructure needed to be built. This means creating reliable roads and, where necessary, bridges that allow us to access the plantation easily. It’s important we have good access to every one of our commercial trees, so we make sure every tree we plant is no further than 
200 metres from any given road. This way, not only can we approach the trees without difficulty, but they can also be easily transported to our timber mill 
once harvested.

With the rainy season running from May through to December, our roads must withstand wet weather and be accessible throughout the year. This means identifying places of incline and placing extra gravel to reinforce the ground. With 12.5km of road already built on San Andrés, it’s a significant and important stage in plantation preparation.

The natural waterways that occur on our plantations help support an array of biodiversity, and the connecting wetlands aid in erosion control, water filtration and serve as storage for ground water supplies. Therefore, with the beautiful river Río Pocosol running through San Andrés, it’s vital our activities do not disturb it. To put it simply, this means planting around it and building bridges over it.

Keen to utilise our own wood when building bridges, in this instance we gained permission from MINAE (Costa Rica’s Ministry of Environment and Energy) to fell and use a Corteza tree that had been struck by lightning on our Santa Rita plantation. It’s all part of becoming self-sufficient and making the most of the resources available to us.

Similarly, we like to make the most of our plantations’ plantable areas, and because not all areas are appropriate for Melina, we also plant trees that are more suited to the varying topographies. On this plantation, we’ve planted Pink Cedar on the steeper inclines, which, due to its ability to fix nitrogen from the atmosphere, is more suitable to the shallower, less fertile soil found on steep banks. We’ve also planted Cebo on the wetter ground, which although slower growing, lends itself well to areas too wet for Melina. By diversifying the tree species on our plantations, we utilise space, help keep the soil healthy and provide a variety of wood to our timber mill. 

As you can imagine, the health of our soil is incredibly important. To maintain a high quality, once a month Costa Rica’s leading soil expert performs a soil audit on our plantations. It’s this on-going examination and quality control that gets such good results.  

As well as soil health, an obvious priority for us is the management of soil erosion. As with all our forestry practices, we adopt an industry recognised method to control it, which in this case is the Universal Soil Loss Equation (USLE). Balancing this with other techniques such as the use of vetiver grass, which, with its 2m long roots helps reinforce the land, we’re able to strengthen our soil’s structure and prevent erosion. 

When it comes to transforming purchased land into a commercial forestry plantation, it’s not just a case of A to B. It takes expert knowledge, professional techniques and hard work to implement the correct infrastructure that will not only allow access to our trees, but also reinforce the ground on which they’re grown. With planting well underway, this plantation will ultimately hold 214,179 commercial trees, making San Andrés a benchmark addition to our plantation portfolio. We look forward to updating you on its progress.