RESEARCH UPDATE: Measuring sandalwood plantation seedlings

AI-Com researchers, Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries (MAF) extension workers and staff from the Natarbora Technical Agricultural School have this week taken measurements from a new sandalwood plantation planted last May. Planted at a new trial site at the Agriculture Technical school in Natarbora of Manatuto municipality, the sandalwood seedlings represent the beginning of new research work aimed at uncovering new ways of growing the tricky but valuable tree.

There has been fantastic a survival rate (95 per cent) and the trees have grown very well. Normally trees growth is between 50-100cm per year, and these trees have grown 50cm in six months.

The establishment of the plantation site is one of AI-Com’s key activities: aimed at evaluating and designing methods for communities to boost sandalwood production and access subsequent economic opportunities. Sandalwood is a highly valuable tree, which grows well in Timor-Leste, but due to its hemi-parasitic nature can be difficult to germinate and grow. This sandalwood trial research plantation has purposefully planted the sandalwood trees with Sesbania (Ai-kale), Leucaena (Ai-café) and Casurina trees as hosts to support their successful establishment and growth.

This site is a pilot location of best practice for growing sandalwood with host trees that can be pruned and used for cattle fodder. The trees will be used as a seed source in future years, with trees with favourable characteristics used as mother seed trees.

Sandalwood is an important tree to Timor-Leste, and has deep economical, economic and cultural significance. This research offers a greater understanding of the value of this tree, and provides a pathway for its use and development for the benefit of all people in Timor-Leste.

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