One of the most significant components of SMF's plans for sustainability is a sophisticated and far-reaching Research and Development (R&D) effort. R&D was founded in 1990. SMF has a number of major programs under way include, including work in tree improvement, silvi culture, soil nutrients, and nutrition research, biotechnology, pest and disease control, and nursery improvements. R&D employee With a staff of more than 400 more than 130 people staffs, including 50 researchers, and another 400 contract workers. SMF has made its investment in forestry research and development a key part of its sustainability program.
SMF's R&D operation has a clear, singular objective strives, which is to produce the best quality pulp wood planting material and the best plantation in the world. SMF's R&D The missions of R&D are to:
- Enhance competitiveness by adopting world-class standards and environmentally friendly practices;
- Improve plantation productivity through the development and application of leading technologies;
- Conduct research to overcome problems encountered in existing plantations.
SMF's tree-improvement programs focus both on growth (as measured by mean annual increment or MAI) and on yield pulp properties (reducing the green tons of fiber required to produce one metric ton of pulp less wood consumption). The main goals of the tree-improvement program are to identify, multiply and produce genetically superior planting material, by adopting leading technologies. SMF's tree improvement team continuously expands genetic base of Acacia and Eucalyptus by conducting seed exploration in the species' native growing regions natural habitats, such as Papua, Flores, and other islands in Indonesia.
Eucalyptus is a species of particular interest to SMF because of its fast growth, has good pulping characteristics, and easier to clone than Acacia.
Eucalyptus is a species of particular interest to SMF because it is fast growing, has good pulping characteristics, and has 10% higher pulping productivity than Acacia. Eucalyptus strands are also suffer fewer pest and disease attacks. In addition, the species shows no sign of aging an effect when it is subjected to cloning, and has shown some promise in terms of enhanced growth and yield. SMF's efforts to develop a superior Eucalyptus clone offers strong potential to support the company's goals for sustainability through improved yields and productivity in the forest and at customers' mills.
There are two ways for breeding i.e vegetative breeding (thru clonal forestry) and generative breeding (thru superior seed). Eucalyptus sp is relatively easier to clone than Acacia because it has little ageing effect. Therefore Acacia breeding is focusing on producing superior seed, while Eucalyptus breeding focuses on cloning. The Eucalyptus cloning process begins with the selection of candidate plus tree (CPTs). The CPTs must then be tested in the clonal tests. Having tested in clonal tests, the selected clones are then to Tissue Culture (TC) lab for micropropagation research.
The annual TC plant production is up to 10 millions per year. The TC technology is also called “Rapid mass propagation”. The TC plants are mostly produced for stool plant (or mother plant). The stool plants are source of minicuttings material. The minicutting is then planted to the plantation. By doing this, it will greatly reduce the cost. The mini cutting plant is less expensive and the growth rate of trees at field level is as good as Tissue Cultured trees. One of the advantages of TC plants is disease free. In developing tissue culture, female workers at R&D were manually planting the plantlets on the enriched media gel in the bottle glass one by one. The TC process must go through stages i.e sterilization, induction, multiplication and rooting stages. The rooted plantlets are then acclimatized to a green house. After 2.5 to 3 months in the green house and open area, they could either be planted to the field or to the sand bed. At the trial plots, some Eucalyptus plantation can get MAI 70-80 m3/ha/y but current average MAI at the commercial plot level is 25~30 m3/ha/y due to disease. Better MAI (40-50 m3/ha/y) is expected in the next 2 years time as multi clones are planted
In the past year, SMF has produced one of The first the best Eucalyptus clones planted in SMF was namely in the world ( Eucalyptus pellita EP05). This clone has been protected by securing government througha Plant Variety Protection Certificate (PVT) issued by the Department of Agriculture of the Republic of Indonesia in early 2007. Theis clone was released for commercial planting after being screened for suitability to lowland humid tropic areas, fast growth, pest and disease resistance, wood properties, and coppicing abilityits superiority and adaptability. Seven years ago, EP05 was considered the most fast growing clone but it is no more used as EP05 is vulnerable to disease especially twig disease (Botryosphaeria disease).
Since 3 years ago, R&D has conducted research on multi clones Eucalyptus and subject to release 3-5 clones to the operation each year. The multi clone policy is to reduce the risk on pest and diseases. Indeed, technology is ever-progressing.
Majority of Acacia plantation is planted by seed. R&D produce genetically superior Acacia seed for operation. The annual production is about 7-8 tons per year. One kg Acacia seed could plant 10 ha plantation. R&D has its own seed production area; enough to produce seed to meet the local demand. Planting Acacia in peat needs the boiler ash (or KCa) otherwise leaves of Acacia turn yellowish and hinder the growth.
Since Acacia has less genetic variation, MAI per ha remains at 30~35 m3 whereas it is possible for Eucalyptus to increase MAI up to 45m3/ha/y at the commercial plot
R&D group have also conducted soil research and analysis to match site with the species/clone as well as to match site with the silvicultural regimes and made significant improvement efforts. It is because every site is not the same. Site has different level of fertility, texture etc
SMF's plantation-focused efforts continue to deliver multiple benefits, among them, increasing the sustainable supply of fiber to meet the market's need for paper, and decreasing the burden on Indonesia's forest ecosystems.