South African Pesticide Research
The South African forest industry subscribes to principles associated with sustainable forestry management which incorporates responsible environmental, social and economic management practices.
Of particular importance are those practices that deal with the management of forest growth and silvicultural management. Silvicultural chemicals (synthetic and/or natural products) are used at varying stages of tree development and for different reasons.
Chemical use can broadly be grouped in terms of:
- Tree protection (pesticides including fungicides; herbicides; insecticides; rodentacides; sterilants; etc.)
- Enhancing tree growth (fertilisers; growth hormones; innoculants; stimulants etc.)
- Amelioration or enhancement of a site or environmentally limiting attribute (fertilisers; hydrogels; stress-relievers).
Sustainable forestry practice requires that any chemical used in forestry needs to conform with any environmental and/or ecological constraints. However, as responsible companies, we also need to be active in terms of reducing any off-site and off-target impacts of chemicals used while reducing overall chemical use, retaining productivity and reducing associated costs.
In this respect, the following should be considered:
- Sector challenges: The need to reduce input costs is directly linked to a reduction in chemical use and/or the finding of alternative solutions. In addition, there is a need to establish a platform for research into the identification and testing of suitably certified products and/or practices for the integrated management of pests and a disease.
- Sector-specific research, development and innovation (RDI) priorities to address challenges include: Ecosystem management combined with appropriate forest management for growing trees in a sustainable and responsible manner. This research will support and inform policy development in terms of forest certification and the use of chemicals in the value chain.
While obtaining, and subsequently retaining, high levels of responsible governance is important, what we also need to understand is that forest certification only highlights and sets standards regarding chemical use. It does not contribute to solving any issues that result from their use/non-use.
Over the years, much effort has been focused on the process of achieving certification, however less effort has been invested into understanding and finding solutions regarding chemical use where existing standards have been compromised. As a consequence, meeting the goals of certification, while retaining cost-effective, sustainable forestry practices, will remain one of our biggest challenges.
Four research focus areas have been identified where more research, knowledge and understanding is required regarding the more prudent use of pesticides. These include:
- Obtaining, collating and analysing chemical-use related data for informed decision making.
- International collaboration to solve common global forest chemical issues.
- The use and incorporation of past research for the development of integrated management strategies.
- The active development of current chemicals where their use is business-critical.