To ensure the success of China’s massive afforestation project and make the vast stretches of barren land in its western region green again, the forestry authorities have vowed to industrialize the production of seedlings and saplings in the years ahead.
Over half of the seedlings and saplings to be used for China’s afforestation project in the 2001-05 period are expected to be provided by key state-run nurseries, according to the forestry authorities.
So far, China has built 2,300 such nurseries covering 95,000 hectares of land for the cultivation of seedlings and over 1.8 million hectares of land for the collection of high-quality seedlings, according to Zhou Shengxian, minister of the State Forestry Administration.
Annually, China is capable of producing seedlings that could cover about 20 million square km of land.
However, only 30 percent of the seedlings used for afforestation come from the state-run nurseries, and only 20 percent of those planted have a high survival rate and are drought resistant and are therefore of a high quality.
The quality of seedlings is low due to the lack of control and supervision over the market. Poor quality goods are prevalent, Zhou complained, indicating that they “have harmed the legal interests and zeal of millions of people working hard towards the afforestation of China in recent years.”
Using poor quality seedlings has not only meant a lot of wasted effort, but could also spell disaster for China’s long-term afforestation plans. “We will only know the consequences of using such poor quality seedlings in the decades to come when they have grown into trees,” Zhou said.
Zhou said he hopes local forestry authorities will make the planting of ecological forests and the development of voluntary tree-planting projects their top priorities in the years to come, and concentrate on using high-quality seedlings and greater varieties of saplings.
In the next few years, the improvement of China’s seedlings and saplings will heavily depend on such things as the introduction of advanced technology for nurseries and an effective supervision mechanism for the management of forests.
Calling on local forestry authorities to build modern nurseries at state and provincial level as models for others throughout China, Zhou urged experts to try their best to further their scientific and technological research on improved varieties of trees.
Zhou said that the industrialization of seeding can only be realized with major breakthroughs in the genetic make-up of fast growing and fast reproducing varieties and the realization of large-scale planting methods.
(China Daily 02/02/2001)