Research and Development

Moving the sector forward

Research and development (R&D) plays a crucial role in maintaining and improving the international competitiveness of the South African forestry sector, with the R&D focus firmly placed on enhancing productivity and sustainability, while reducing the sector’s environmental footprint.

FSA co-ordinates the sector’s collaborative R&D, ensuring over-arching needs are met through a targeted R&D framework approach, agile enough to evolve with the ever-changing local and international pressures placed upon forestry.

FSA’s approach to R&D is built upon three pillars:

1) Strategic focus areas:
Using a decision-based framework, that takes into account:

  • the ultimate goal of enhancing sector competitiveness and sustainability;
  • focus areas common to the sector as a whole; and
  • areas that score highly in terms of risk (be it economic, regulatory or reputation based) and impact (probability and severity).

Two strategic R&D focus areas: forest protection and environmental sustainability have been prioritised. Within each, a number of ‘specific areas of focus’ have been highlighted (infographic one), some spanning both focus areas.

Functional Area - R&D diagram-01

2) Developing high-level R&D capacity and service:
Sector-wide R&D must be of the highest standard, to achieve this FSA has developed a series of R&D Platforms, Supported Subject Experts (SSE) and Chairs to lead sector-wide R&D.

3) Prioritised funding:
FSA only directly funds R&D that is common to all members’ needs, as well as being aligned with the strategic focus areas outlined above.

FSA Research and Development documents

Research platforms

Tree Protection Cooperative Programme

University of Pretoria
Contact: Professor Bernard Slippers


The Tree Protection Cooperative Programme (TPCP) represents a Co-operative research initiative between the University of Pretoria and the forestry sector in South Africa. Other than long and short-term research, the TPCP provides extension services, training of students, access to a world-class disease and pest diagnostic clinic and guidance in dealing with tree pest and pathogen problems. One of the key products of the TPCP is to produce biological control agents for insect pests that damage plantations belonging to members.

Forest Analytical Laboratory

Institute for Commercial Forestry Research
Contact: Dr Richard Burgdorf

R Burgdorf

This Platform, in addition to more general routine analysis, provides analytical services that are specific and specialized to the needs of forestry research, including their development where needed. This includes soil, plant tissue and wood property analyses and services required to implement research projects in forestry. The Platform enables FSA members to access services, including method development work, for research projects it is supporting, at a subsidized rate. In addition, FSA members enjoy a discounted rate for commercial routine (i.e. non-research) analyses. The Platform can also provide access to equipment and ‘bench-space’ for students whose research requires specialist, non-routine, and hands-on work.

Spatial Technology Platform

Institute for Commercial Forestry Research
Contact: Dr Ilaria Germishuizen

I Germishuizen

This Platform maintains necessary skills, capabilities and expertise together with a range of spatial data needed to support the forestry industry in research projects, initiatives and commercial operational management activities that require the access, manipulation and interpretation of spatially explicit datasets. The key objectives of this platform, include:

  • Sourcing, managing and developing of relevant geospatial data sets on behalf and in support of the industry, research partners and ICFR whilst observing strictly any confidentiality associate with the data in its use.
  • Leading and supporting forest health monitoring initiatives
  • Support the monitoring and deployment strategies of biological control agents
  • Biotic and abiotic risk modelling and impact studies particularly as impacted by climate change
  • ICFR national site classification development
  • Management of spatial data associated with forest pest and pathogens and their biological control in partnership with the Tree Protection Cooperative Programme
  • Supporting forestry companies and other organisations through ad hoc spatial data analyses.
Forest Protection Support Platform

Institute for Commercial Forestry Research
Contact: Dr Ilaria Germishuizen

I Germishuizen

The Platform provides capacity and capability to coordinate and deploy developed biological agents to achieve rapid, economic and sustainable benefit to crop production. This platform is aimed at protecting and expanding institutional skills and capacity in two key areas namely:

  1. Field trial and survey-based research methodologies to quantify the impacts of pests and pathogens on tree growth and yield
  2. Operational management for the commercial deployment and assessment of biological control agents

This Platform has strong collaboration and is complementary to the role of Tree Protection Cooperative Programme in forest protection for the commercial forestry industry in South Africa.

DNA Marker Technology Platform

University of Pretoria
Contact: Dr Zander Myburg


The DNA Marker Technology Platform is dedicated to providing a high-throughput DNA fingerprinting service to beneficiate tree breeding programmes in South Africa, and to develop and implement new genome-based technologies, thereby making the relevant research accessible to all members of the South African forestry industry.

Industry Disease Screening Platform

University of Pretoria
Contact: Dr Almuth Hammerbacher

A Hammerbache

This Platform was established to develop disease screening expertise and infrastructure to service all FSA members. While initially focussed on eucalypts, this Platform will also allow for the inclusion of disease screening of both acacia and pine species. Screening will include:

  1. Early screening of genotypes in environmentally controlled greenhouse structures. Genotypes will include hybrid clonal varieties, pure species, and seeds.
  2. Early screening of pathogenic strains to determine virulence under varying climatic conditions.
  3. Correlation of susceptibility and or tolerance with field trials established by industry.
  4. Training of students and capacity building, technology transfer to the industry and contribution to the existing body of knowledge and expertise.

This Platform will develop a quantitative system to reliably evaluate past, current and future genotypes included in Tree Breeding Programmes across the forestry industry. The approach is to focus on pathogens presenting the greatest economic risk followed by the most significant impact on growth. This will be aligned with the development of infrastructure requirements over three years.

Pest and Disease Monitoring Platform

University of Pretoria and Insititute for Commercial Forestry Research
Contact: Professor Bernard Slippers and Dr Ilaria Germishuizen

I Germishuizen

This Platform will develop a fully integrated, spatially enabled, centralised IT infrastructure for the storage and retrieval of information related to the presence of pests and diseases in South African plantation forests. The objectives of this platform are to:

  • Appraise pest and disease occurrence data currently housed at TPCP and the ICFR
  • Design, develop and implement a spatially enabled, centralised database for the storage and retrieval of records of the presence of pests and diseases
  • Develop a web-based, electronic data capturing form that works across platforms to link future collected data directly with the developed database.
  • Integrate the database with mobile tools used for in-field diagnosis and capture of pest and disease presence data and with plantation management systems.

The IT infrastructure is envisaged as a dynamic system which allows for expansion and addition of new functionalities as needed.

ICFR Information Centre

Institute for Commercial Forestry Research
Contact: Karusha Singh

A Morris

The Information Center Platform is to store and make available published information on forestry science and forest management that is relevant and necessary to support the broad forestry research, education and management needs in South Africa.

The envisaged objectives for the platform include:

  1. To provide access to:
    • Current key peer-reviewed forest science journals
    • An archive of peer viewed journals
    • Collections of various published report series relating to forestry
    • Numerous published and unpublished ad hoc pamphlets, reports and other documents relating to forestry in South Africa
    • All available ICFR reported output produced 1947-2018
    • A literature search capability and interlibrary loan facility

  2. This access will be provided in the following ways:
    • Within reasonable limits library, users can be supplied with electronic copies of these materials.
    • Where electronic copy cannot be provided material will only be accessible in the library.
    • Physical access to the library will be possible within fixed periods each week
    • Use of CABI Forestry Database for literature searches

  3. It will be an objective to initiate a process whereby online electronic access to a collection of key materials will be provided through a project to digitize paper copy. This work will be enabled through a funding source outside of the FSA platform.

Research projects

Economic, environmental and social pesticide risk model

Nelson Mandela University
Contact: Professor Keith Little

K Little

This project aims to quantify pesticide use and the associated target and off-target impacts (biotic and abiotic) within the South African forestry sector. The project will further link pesticide use treatments and/or alternative practices to forest productivity (mortality, uniformity, growth and timber quality) while developing an economic risk model related to pesticide use

Environmental fate of pesticides

Nelson Mandela University
Contact: Professor Keith Little

K Little

This project aims to quantify pesticide use and the associated target and off-target impacts (biotic and abiotic) within the South African forestry sector. The project will further link pesticide use treatments and/or alternative practices to forest productivity (mortality, uniformity, growth and timber quality) while developing an economic risk model related to pesticide use.

Investigate current registered pesticides and biopesticides for registration in forestry nurseries

Nelson Mandela University
Contact: Professor Keith Little

K Little

This research collaboration with Seedling Growers Association of South Africa will survey, identify and then prioritise research for suitable pesticides to be registered under Act 36. This will include the communication with the appropriate manufacturer to ensure protocols are drawn up for currently registered products to trial and then submit for registration.

Climate surface for forestry

University of Witwatersrand
Contact: Professor Mary Scholes

M Scholes

This Platform will co-produce climate surfaces for the entire forestry landscape for South Africa to enhance planning, management for sustainable development and minimize climatic risk. The Platform will:

  • Produce climate surfaces for the entire forestry domain of South Africa, at 8 km resolution, with monthly time resolution, at ten-year intervals.
  • Identify the variables (e.g. temperature extremes, frost occurrence etc) which need to be included at suitable temporal and spatial scales.
  • Iteratively test the variables generated for the one-year product, refining the indicators or making them more specific for species or issues; and/or the inclusion of more ensemble members or scenarios to broaden the robustness of the evaluation; and or 1 km data for selected parts of the country.

Research consortiums

Eucalyptus growers

Biological control of Eucalypt Pest Research Alliance (BiCEP)
University of Pretoria
Contact: Professor Bernard Slippers


BiCEP is an international alliance formed in 2013 to better coordinate the research needs internationally for biological control of eucalypt insect pests that had been moving globally. The alliance provides coordinated, collaborative solutions to the problem of eucalypt pests by:

  • Evaluating and supplying biological control agents to eligible countries
  • Developing a forest biosecurity surveillance network focussed on eucalypt pests and pathogens
  • Researching the role of natural enemies in pest population regulation in eucalypt plantations in Australia and overseas

The current partners in the alliance are:

  • Forestry South Africa (with the TPCP as the implementing partner)
  • University of the Sunshine Coast
  • CELPA (Portuguese Paper Industry Association)
  • IPEF (Forest Science Research Institute, Brazil)
Forest Health Monitoring

University of Pretoria and Institute for Commercial Forestry Research
Contact: Professor Brett Hurley and Dr Ilaria Germishuizen

B Hurley
I Germishuizen

The overarching aim of this project is to develop a multi-layered system for monitoring plantation forest health on a national scale. The development and implementation of such a system requires extensive resources, preferably through a public-private sector partnership. Hence, industry adopted to adopt a stepwise approach, and limit the scope initially to the ground-based survey for the Eucalypt gall wasp, L. invasa, and its biological control agents, specifically:

  • To monitor the extent and degree of damage associated with L. invasa across the summer rainfall plantation areas of South Africa.
  • To monitor the presence and prevalence of L. invasa’s biological control agents.

FSA Research and Development partners

Environmental sustainability


In order to develop the Forest Sector sustainably, it is necessary to manage the landscape of which it is part of. Research addressing environmental sustainability focuses on systems and practices for the management and assessment of entire forest landscapes and ecosystems so that the maximum sustainable yield of the full range of beneficial goods and services is achieved. The Sector along with our research partner are engaged in numerous research initiatives that address environmental sustainability. This ranges from reducing chemical use, investigating alternatives to chemicals and interrogating probable climate change forecast at a landscape level to allow the Sector to plan and adapt to the climate change to mention a few.

Forest protection


The forestry sector loses on average equivalent to 27% of its annual harvest to pests, diseases and fire. Due to globalisation and climate change, we expect the threat posed by pests, diseases and fire to increase and for this reason, the industry commits the majority of its research spend on research addressing protection. Along with our research partners and their international networks the industry is involved in research addressing protection maters such as better understanding the pests and diseases (life cycle, biology, phenology genetics), genetic assisted breeding, biological control (identification, propagation and implementation) as well as integrated management.