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Luís Renato Junqueira e Thiago Spatti Braga

Manager of Forestry Research and Engineer of Operational Development at Sylvamo


The panorama of advances silvicultural

It is a fact that Brazilian forestry stands out worldwide as a model of development, research, innovation and productivity; we have advanced a lot in the management of commercial forests in recent decades and, even leveraged by so many advances, today's challenges are no simpler than those of the past.

Sylvamo emerged from the separation of the paper business from International Paper, starting to appear on the market as a stand alone company publicly traded. This shift has allowed Sylvamo to focus on its purpose and, through engaged people and ESG practices, produce the role people need to educate, communicate and entertain. This transition came at an opportune moment and has contributed to us acting in a more agile and effective way in different matters, including those that converge towards the modernization of forestry.

It is impossible to talk about modernization of the forest system without addressing the issue of mechanization, which is one of the pillars for the sector to continue seeking gains in productivity and efficiency in its management. It is also impossible to talk about mechanization without comparing the areas of harvesting and forestry, the former being at the forefront when it comes to innovation and embedded technology, often ahead of even conventional agriculture.

When we talk about mechanization of forestry, a certain degree of difficulty must be considered, as it still depends on adapted equipment and availability of labor. Such difficulties can be attributed to some factors, highlighting the conditions and places of eucalyptus cultivation, such as irregular terrain, with the presence of holes, obstacles, stump lines from previous cycles, and all this camouflaged by forest residues, in addition to, we often find, in a single area, completely different conditions in terms of slope, soil type and environmental factors.

Another important factor is the difference in management techniques adopted by the sector, which makes it difficult to standardize equipment and impact the development of new products by suppliers. Hence the large amount of adaptations attributed to silviculture, after all, it is practically impossible for standard equipment to be efficient in all the adverse scenarios mentioned. Thus, one cannot expect the same speed of mechanization experienced by harvesting and agriculture, since the key point of this advance was the standardization of needs.

Considering this scenario, should we seek standardization of forestry operations? Using the preparation activity as an example of soil, which has reached a certain degree of standardization in recent years, we have seen the supply of forest subsoilers grow, which, today, practically do not require major modifications to operate. On the other hand, perhaps it is this same  destandardization” that has led the sector to reach its current levels of productivity and efficiency, treating each environmental particularity with a different management, thus extracting the most from each area.

Therefore, we believe that there must be a balance in this balance and that the sector must seek points of convergence, whether supported by cooperative programs between companies and universities or by establishing partnerships with open innovation networks, demonstrating to the market its demands and consumption potential.

In recent years, Sylvamo has made great strides in preventing and fighting forest fires, a problem that not only plagues forest-based companies, but the country itself, and has been a central topic in discussions around the world. Through new technologies, such as the use of observation cameras in towers, artificial intelligence algorithms, communication networks and satellite data, we guarantee greater agility and efficiency for the brigades.

Once in the field, the brigades have new products and equipment, such as retardant chemicals and suppressors, which enhance the effect of water, trucks developed for this purpose, rapid action equipment and drones for planning and monitoring actions. Such advances reflect Sylvamo's concern to preserve and combat the practice of fires, positively impacting the communities in which we operate.

Furthermore, we have consistently advanced in the key process of preventing fires by creating increasingly accurate and precise risk models, based on processing and analyzing spatial data and historical information, to guide fire prevention actions. In addition to the advances highlighted above, related to equipment and structures, we want to draw attention to other aspects within silviculture, which have also developed in recent years, such as the current portfolio of products available for relevant activities, such as pest, disease and plant control. weeds, and we clearly see an increase in the number of options for the management of these agents in recent years.

Regarding weed control, we moved from a scenario of practically exclusive use and based on glyphosate, to its partial replacement in specific uses. It is clear that glyphosate still remains the main molecule in the control of weeds in eucalyptus, and we also know how difficult its complete replacement is, but the range of products registered in recent years has allowed other alternatives, such as graminicides, to be occupy certain niches and allow applications even on eucalyptus plants.

This selectivity to the culture brought by graminicides also allows the use of other equipment and the conjugation with other molecules, as in the case of some pre- emergent ones. Concomitantly with the arrival of new post-emergent options, new molecules and modes of action for pre-emergents also came, which, in addition to increasing the list of tools available to the forester, also contributes to a fiercer and more competitive market.

In relation to pest and disease control, we also made progress based on the registration of new molecules, which allowed the sector to eliminate adaptations of leaflets from other crops, especially for the production of seedlings in forest nurseries. In a complementary way, the scientific knowledge built in partnership with universities and research centers was key in many of these processes, helping us, from the creation and monitoring of registration requests with the Ministry of Agriculture, to the development of genuine techniques and methodologies to forest crops, enabling registered products and developed equipment to be used to their fullest potential.

Several challenges are still out there to be solved, whether they are regionalized or pains of an entire productive sector. At Sylvamo, we have not forgotten all the achievements and advances made to date, but we believe that the path ahead will be increasingly dynamic, challenging and changing, and that the modernization of forestry does not only involve the development of new equipment, but It also comprises a multidisciplinary environment, where open innovation networks, startups, academia and different areas of knowledge must work together with the private sector, in order to solve, in an agile and responsible way, the new challenges that we will certainly face.