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Cover photo: New advanced technology is used by PNG Biomass in tree nurseries to boost productivity and efficiency in seedling production.

PNG Biomass is introducing new agricultural technology into PNG which is helping the project to grow the best species of trees using local resources and labour. Over the last few years, over 60 statistically designed trials were established to work out the best species to grow for biomass energy generation as well as how best to plant and manage trees in the Markham Valley. PNG Biomass has established a breeding population and seed orchards that will yield improved seed later this year.

Late last year, PNG Biomass introduced an automated seedling production system using a Swedish-made Fibre Cell Filling Machine and a South African Vacuum Sowing Machine to produce a consistent supply of high-quality fibre cell seedlings.

The automated seedling production system at the PNG Biomass nursery at the Forest Research Institute in Lae.

With this new nursery technology, PNG Biomass created the fourth automated seedling production line of this type in the world. The project has now three complete automated seedling production lines and is building a nursery in the Markham that will initially produce 4 million seedlings per annum but will be expanded next year to produce 8 to 10 million seedlings plants per year. The nurseries will create employment for over 80 local people in the initial phase.

The automated seedling production system offers a number of great advantages. The machines increase productivity and efficiency in the nursery and optimise logistics and handling.

Fibre cells produced automatically in paper pots with coco-fibre are placed into trays that will be precision-sowed with the automated Vacuum Sowing Machine.

The Fibre Cell Machine fills biodegradable paper pots with media to promote the growth of the ideal root plug with lateral root development, air pruning, and minimal deformation. The Vacuum-Sowing Machine provides a standardized seed planting process to ensure consistent depth of sowing, only one or two valuable seed a sown per cavity, highly efficient seed selection, and a boost to productivity.

The machines are running under the supervision and control of skilled local operators. On an average workday, they manage the automated production of 12,000 seedlings per line to meet the plantation’s demand. As part of the installation of the machines local staff were trained in the use and maintenance of the equipment Swedish company BCC – who specialises in the design, engineering and construction of tree nurseries across the globe – and South African and Indonesian experts.

The project is also starting to produce Elite Varieties of Eucalyptus hybrids by rooted cuttings and moving from imported Jiffy pots to locally produced fibre cells that will utilise locally produced coco-fibre.

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