Plantation forestry. How does it work?

The plantation process

Forestry is the science of establishing, managing and conserving forests, while management of a plantation forest is known as silviculture.

ForestrySA operates as an innovative and sustainable plantation forestry business, producing and marketing high quality products.

This task is challenged by the long term nature of forestry, the changing and greater demands of society forest products and environmental responsibilities, recreation and unpredictable nature of fire, pests and diseases.

Scroll down to find out more about the plantation process.

Download ForestrySA’s Plantation Forestry information here.


Planning for a pine plantation starts several years before the first seedlings are planted. A number of factors need to be considered, including:

  • Size of the area to be planted
  • Existing vegetation and protection of biodiversity values
  • Weed infestation
  • Water movement
  • Erosion prevention
  • Location of forest tracks
  • Soil type and nutrient content

This phase is vital, as the trees will be growing for up to 40 years. Each stage needs to ensure a maximum rate of tree survival and growth, while protecting and managing environmental features. If the site is a second rotation, the residue of the previous crop of trees is reduced. The site is cultivated to improve soil health and create planting lines. Prior to planting the seedlings, the area is treated with herbicide to control the growth of weeds, reducing competition for valuable water and nutrients.


The nursery cultivates young plants from seed or cuttings sourced from genetically superior plants.

At nine months old (about 25cm high), the seedlings are planted at ~1,600 trees per hectare. Being close together, the seedlings grow straight as they compete for available moisture, sunlight and nutrients. If required, fertiliser is used to improve tree health and growth.


Over the length of a rotation trees are “thinned”, with about 30-50% of trees removed per thinning. This occurs at approximately 10 year intervals, when tree growth slows due to competition.

Thinning allows the remaining trees more space to obtain water, light and nutrients from the soil. This allows the remaining trees to establish their optimum rate of growth. Trees removed at first thinning are used for fence posts or other pulp products.

At 37-40 years of age the remaining trees are clear-felled, allowing the site to be re-established.


Harvested logs may be used for a variety of products. Most ForestrySA timber is delivered to sawmills where logs are processed into products used for:

  • Structural and framing timber for housing construction
  • Furniture
  • Pallets and crates