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Alex Passos dos Santos

Director of Maxitree Florestal


A look at the production and the seedling quality

I remember my entry as a professional in the forestry sector, back in 2001. At the time, still with my master's degree in progress, in which I dedicated myself to the silvicultural evaluation of clones of the species Eucalyptus by macro and micropropagation, imagined the different possibilities of application of vegetative propagation technology in the forestry sector, including changes in the seedling production process.

The company in which I had the opportunity to start putting into practice all the lessons learned at the university was undergoing a modernization of its nursery for the production of forest seedlings, adopting the use of modern irrigation bars, brought from the ornamental plants sector, among others. other novelties, a constant source of innovation and technology that, with the commitment of professionals in the sector, became “adaptations” to the production of seedlings.

Since then, I have witnessed numerous attempts, in different companies and commercial nurseries for seedling production, to transform the tacit knowledge of nurseries into procedures, with the automation of the process whenever possible. I even participated in a multidisciplinary project that aimed to manage irrigation in full sun by installing sensors in the tubes, which emitted sound signals when the moisture content of the substrate was lower than expected, so that the person responsible for irrigation could trigger it. This project did not achieve the expected success, and the operation was maintained by the visual assessment and knowledge of the person responsible for the process.

What can be seen over all these years were, for the most part, frustrated attempts to modernize and automate seedling production nurseries. I came across, in different nurseries, computerized control centers for clonal mini-gardens, greenhouses and areas with full sun, which, as soon as they had been installed, became obsolete, and the reins of the production of seedlings, directly impacting their quality, making it practically impossible to maintain a standard.

One of the few cases of modernization of a nursery for the production of seedlings along this path was presented in the 62nd issue of Revista Opinões, with the article entitled “Automation of Forest Nurseries, The Data Era in Favor of Silviculture”, in which the author refers the project of the new nursery, recently installed in the city of Três Lagoas (Mato Grosso do Sul), as “Seedling Factory”, which, as described by him, began in 2009, with the first prospections and idea of development , and started operating in March 2017.

One year before the start of this nursery, one of the meetings of the recently created Cooperative Program on Forest Mechanization and Automation, belonging to the Institute of Forestry Research and Studies, took place, in which it was decided, by the participating companies, that the Cooperative Program on Mechanization and Automation Florestal would focus on the mechanization of silvicultural processes.

With the creation of the cooperative program and discussions on the subject, the number of manufacturers that started and continued to invest in planters only increased. But what does the production of seedlings by forest nurseries have to do with modernization in planting? The answer refers directly to the quality of seedlings and their influence on the operation of mechanized planting.

And, for the theme “production of seedlings”, how can we define “quality”, in a scenario in which each company has its seedling production nursery, largely obsolete, using basically the same structure of 20 years ago, or who do you know even older? In some cases, it has different nurseries or buys seedlings from the market and sends them for planting. Add to that the fact that each batch of seedlings produced has at least three different quality standards. Given this scenario, how to meet the demands of the equipment, taking into account that each planter developed or under development has its peculiarity and, for each of them, specific characteristics of the seedlings are necessary?

It is essential to emphasize that a common point among the planters with which I have had the opportunity to have some kind of contact is that these equipments plant the seedlings by gravity. So, when we talk about seedling quality requirements for mechanized planting, we cannot fail to consider the total height of the seedling (substrate plus aerial part), the diameter of the collar, the tortuosity of the stem, the number of ramifications and pairs of leaves, substrate structure and seedling weight. As a rule, these are characteristics that, separately or together, can be responsible for the clogging of the planter, not reaching the ideal depth and planting failures, among other operational problems, when they do not comply with the standard defined as the "ideal change”.

A large multidisciplinary discussion forum needs to be formed, in order to think together about the modernization of forest nurseries, a subject that, from time to time, returns to the debate table. When thinking about the operationalization of planters, it is necessary to establish the quality requirements of seedlings, define which parameters really impact the moment of planting and how to ensure that nurseries meet these demands with quality. It is clear how complex this chain is and the path that the forestry sector still has ahead for the modernization of forest plantations to take place effectively. My intention, when writing some considerations for this article, is to call everyone to reflect on the subject and I would like to end by quoting the philosopher Mario Sérgio Cortella, who says: “never be incapable of renewing your own knowledge”.