Express planting in Finland

Recently in Scandinavia countries, it has become very popular to use tree-planting machines. Manual planting is still the most common way, but recent improvements in technology may change this situation dramatically in coming future. Let’s check how does this practice looks like in Finland. 

Suomi equals Finland

Forests cover over 75% (23 million hectares) of entire surface in Finland. There are 4.3 hectares of forest per each Finn, what is over sixteen times more than in European countries on average. This makes Finland a “forest giant” in Europe.

Geographically, most of Finland is situated at a latitude of between 60 and 70 degrees north. The climate in Finland and Scandinavia is influenced by the Gulf Stream, bringing warm water from the Atlantic. Thanks to this, there are forests even in the northernmost parts of Finland. Areas located equally far north in Russia and North America are mainly tundra, a treeless wasteland, because of the cold climate. Growing season is quite short in Finland, and is equal to 5 months in the south, and only 3 months in the north.

Finland’s forests are probably the most intensively studied in Europe. Since the beginning of the 1920s, they and especially the wood resources that they contain have been inventoried and monitored in a great variety of ways. The inventory system now in use incorporates about a hundred variables, which relate not only to the volume and composition of wood resources, but also to such matters as soil, vegetation cover and the health of trees.

Private citizens own most of Finland’s forests. Private forest owners number more than 400,000. Counting their family members, about one million Finns can be estimated to be forest owners either directly or indirectly.

Because of many forest owners and high technology applied in the forestry, an average harvested area in Finland is around 1.2 hectare, what corresponds to countries such as Germany, Austria and France.

Seedlings production

In Finalnd, in 2000 over 60% of forest seeds came from special seed orchards. Recently, this rate felt down to around 15%, and seeds are mostly obtained by collecting cones after trees harvest or from standing trees. One kilogram of seeds can cost around 800 Euro.

In 2012, seedling production in Finland was equal to 165 million. Currently, there are around 8 big companies specialized in seedlings production, which own together 25 forest nurseries. These companies supply over 90% of all needed seedlings for forest regeneration in Finland. The rest 10% is produced by small, family-owned forest nurseries. There are around 70 of such small forest nurseries presently.

These 25 big forest nurseries produce mostly container seedlings. Each of them can produce between five to ten million seedlings per year.

Pottiputki- what’s that?

In Finland, like in many European countries, manual planting is still the most common. However, recently traditional tools for planting has become out of date, and their place took a new finish invention called Pottiputki.

Pottiputki. Photo: Rafal Chudy

Pottiputki is a tool invented in 1970 by the finish engineer Tapio Saarenketo. I can describe you how this “complex” technology look like, but I think it will be the best if you watch this movie: Pottiputki Plant the Planet

The cost of one Pottiputki is between 200 and 500 Euro, and depends on the tube diameter (more expensive for bigger plants, i.e. oak, beech etc.). During one-hour forest worker can plant around 150 seedlings, what is really impressive compared to traditional tools.

Mechanized tree planting

Around 3% areas in Finland are regenerated by the use of special harvesters, with crane-mounted planting devices. This method has been developing in Finland over last 20 year. Although tree-planting machines produce high-quality regeneration, the costs related to planting machines’ low productivity are still quite high.

Harvester with specialized head for planting. Photo: Rafal Chudy

The mechanized tree planting is applied on areas over one hectare, and its productivity is around 150-160 seedlings per hour. Therefore, it is very comparable with manual planting. Unfortunately, the costs of applying specialized harvester are around 10% higher, compared to manual methods.

One of the main advantages, often mentioned, is that harvester driver can precisely select the planting spot, because he sees more than human on the ground. Nevertheless, the harvester operator training (up to 3 years) probably generates the highest cost in such regeneration method.

Here, you can watch a movie, how mechanized planting looks in practice:
Bracke P11A Plater on Excavator

Quite recently, scientists from Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU) examined one promising way of raising productivity of tree planting machines by reducing the time spent on manual reloading of seedlings onto the carousels of crane-mounted planting devices. Scientists together with engineering students invented MagMat, a carousel test-rig installed on the Bracke Planter (the one showed in the previous movie), and compared its productivity with other today’s seedling-wise-loaded carousel.
The results showed that seedling reloading was on average twice as fast with MagMat compared to today’s seedling carousel, thereby increasing assumed planting machine productivity by almost 10%. It was concluded that MagMat’s cost-efficiency was particularly reliant on its added investment cost, mechanical availability and how quickly trays can be switched automatically.

You can read whole article here:
Reloading mechanized tree planting devices faster using a seedling tray carousel

4 thoughts on “Express planting in Finland

  1. How would the planter work on a slope. I know we did use the forwarder to harvest but it did not work on a slope. The land in British Columbia is 90% up and down.

  2. Good question Ed. I guess, using these planting machines is quite limited on slopes. I would assume, that their use can cost more due to higher fuel combustion and longer time spent on manual reloading of seedlings onto the carousels of crane-mounted planting devices. Also, driver can have problems with reduced visibility on bigger slopes. Nevertheless, in Finland they have also up and down areas, and they manage somehow to use these machines 🙂

  3. Hi, we are a team of 5 of tree planters/forest thinners with over 3 years of experience in Scandinavia, we work with dedication and high productivity and we would like to do the job in Finland also. If anyone needs us here or can point us to the companies thay would use our help, please contact us via anytime. Thank you

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