Indian sandalwood producer Tropical Forestry Services (TFS) has begun this year’s planting program in Northern Territory’s Douglas Daly region. Source: ABC Rural
TFS is expecting to plant around 1200 hectares of sandalwood this year across its properties in the Douglas Daly and Katherine regions.
Planting began at the company’s newly established Mustang Hill property two weeks ago, with around 280 hectares of sandalwood to be put in.
TFS’s Northern Territory regional manager, Nick Common said it took a year to prepare the property before the first tree could be planted.
“There is a lot of land development, drilling bores, putting in irrigation infrastructure, prepping the land, spraying weeds,” Mr Common said.
“We spend a lot of time designing these plantations, mostly to minimise erosion, so we run our rows based on the contours (of the land).”
Mr Common said the trees were being planted in wider row spacings and different configurations than previous plantings.
“Over time we are learning more and more, we are writing the book on sandalwood plantations as we go, so we are developing new configurations for spacing out trees,” he said.
“Sandalwood, being a parastitic tree, we plant it with different host trees, and sandalwood feeds off the root systems of those trees.
“So there is quite a lot of thought going in to planning that and how we get the best interaction between sandalwood and hosts.
“We don’t want too many host trees to out-compete with the sandalwood, but we also need enough hosts to be able to supply the nutrients and water that the sandalwood requires.”
Around 45 people were working in the planting crew, mainly from South Korea and Taiwan.
“They are just starting to acclimatise to the NT weather, they have been struggling for a week or two but they are starting to get into their rhythm,” Mr Common said.
The seedlings being planted at Mustang Hill came from TFS’s $3.5 million nursery opened in Katherine last month.