is a large farm
, usually in a tropical
country, where crops
are grown for sale in
, rather than for local
. The term
is informal and not precisely defined.
Crops grown on plantations include cotton
and various oil seeds
and rubber trees
. Farms that produce alfalfa
, and other forage
crops are usually not called plantations. The
term "plantation" has usually not included large orchards
, but has included the planting of trees for
. A plantation is always a monoculture
over a large area and does not
include extensive naturally occurring stands of plants that have
. Because of its large
size, a plantation takes advantage of economies of scale
policies and natural comparative advantage
to determining where plantations have been located.
Among the earliest examples of plantations were the latifundia
of the Roman
, which produced large quantities of wine
and olive oil
grew rapidly with
the increase in international
and the development of a worldwide economy
that followed the expansion
of European colonial empires
. Like every
, it has changed
over time. Earlier forms of plantation agriculture were associated
with large disparities of wealth
, foreign ownership and political influence,
and exploitative social systems such as indentured labor
. The history of the environmental, social
and economic issues relating to plantation agriculture are covered
in articles that focus on those subjects.
Industrial plantations are established to produce a high volume of
wood in a short period of time. Plantations are grown by state forestry
authorities (for example, the Forestry Commission in Britain) and/or
the paper and wood industries and other private landowners (such as
Weyerhaeuser and International Paper in the United States, Asia Pulp & Paper (APP) in Indonesia).
are often grown on
plantations as well. In southern and southeastern Asia
, oil palm
, and more recently teak
plantations have replaced the natural
Industrial plantations are actively managed for the commercial
production of forest products. Industrial plantations are usually
large-scale. Individual blocks are usually even-aged and often
consist of just one or two species. These species can be exotic or
indigenous. The plants used for the plantation are often
genetically improved for desired traits such as growth and
resistance to pests and diseases in general and specific traits,
for example in the case of timber species, volumic wood production
and stem straightness. Forest
are the basis for genetic improvement.
Selected individuals grown in seed
are a good source for seeds to develop adequate
Wood production on a tree plantation is generally higher than that
of natural forests. While forests managed for wood production
commonly yield between 1 and 3 cubic meters per hectare per year,
plantations of fast-growing species commonly yield between 20 and
30 cubic meters or more per hectare annually; a Grand Fir plantation at Craigvinean in Scotland has a growth
rate of 34 cubic meters per hectare per year (Aldhous & Low
1974), and Monterey Pine plantations
in southern Australia can yield up to 40
cubic meters per hectare per year (Everard & Fourt
In 2000, while plantations accounted for 5% of global
forest, it is estimated that they supplied about 35% of the worlds
- In the first year, the ground is prepared usually by some
combination of burning, herbicide spraying, and/or cultivation and then saplings are planted by human
crew or by machine. The saplings are usually obtained in bulk from
industrial nurseries, which may specialize in selective breeding in
order to produce fast growing disease- and pest-resistant
- In the first few years until the canopy closes, the saplings
are looked after, and may be dusted or sprayed with fertilizers or
pesticides until established.
- After the canopy closes, with the tree crowns touching each
other, the plantation is becoming dense and crowded, and tree
growth is slowing due to competition. This stage is termed 'pole
stage'. When competition becomes too intense (for pine trees, when the live
crown is less than a third of the tree's total height), it is
time to thin out the section. There are several methods for
thinning, but where topography permits, the most popular is
'row-thinning', where every third or fourth or fifth row of trees
is removed, usually with a harvester. Many trees are removed, leaving regular clear lanes through the
section so that the remaining trees have room to expand again. The
removed trees are delimbed, forwarded to
the forest road, loaded onto trucks, and sent to a mill. A typical
pole stage plantation tree is 7-30 cm in diameter at breast height (dbh).
Such trees are sometimes not suitable for timber, but are used as pulp for paper and particleboard, and as chips for oriented strand board.
- As the trees grow and become dense and crowded again, the
thinning process is repeated. Depending on growth rate and species,
trees at this age may be large enough for timber milling; if not,
they are again used as pulp and chips.
- Around year 10-60 the plantation is now mature and (in economic
terms) is falling off the back side of its growth curve. That is to
say, it is passing the point of maximum wood growth per hectare per
year, and so is ready for the final harvest. All remaining trees
are felled, delimbed, and taken to be processed.
- The ground is cleared, and the cycle is repeated.
Some plantation trees, such as pines and eucalyptus, can be at high
risk of fire damage because their leaf oils and resins are
flammable to the point of a tree being explosive under some
conditions. Conversely, an afflicted plantation can in some cases
be cleared of pest species cheaply through the use of a prescribed burn
, which kills all lesser
plants but does not significantly harm the mature trees.
Criticism of industrial plantations
In contrast to a naturally regenerated forest, plantations are
typically grown as even-aged monocultures
, primarily for timber
1970s, Brazil began to
establish high-yield, intensively managed, short rotation
- Plantations are usually monocultures. That is, the same species
of tree is planted across a given area, whereas a natural forest
would contain a far more diverse range of tree species.
- Plantations may include tree species that would not naturally
occur in the area. They may include unconventional types such as
hybrid, and genetically modified trees may be used
sometime in the future . Since the primary interest in plantations
is to produce wood or pulp, the types of trees found in plantations are
those that are best-suited to industrial applications. For example,
pine, spruce and eucalyptus are widely planted far beyond their
natural range because of their fast growth rate, tolerance of rich
or degraded agricultural land and potential to produce large
volumes of raw material for industrial use.
- Plantations are always young forests in ecological terms.
Typically, trees grown in plantations are harvested after 10 to 60
years, rarely up to 120 years. This means that the forests produced
by plantations do not contain the type of growth, soil or wildlife
typical of old-growth natural forest
ecosystems. Most conspicuous is the
absence of decaying dead wood, a crucial component of natural
These types of plantations are sometimes called
fast-wood plantations or fiber farms and often managed on a
short-rotation basis, as little as 5 to 15 years. They are becoming
more widespread in South America, Asia and other areas. The
environmental and social impacts of this type of plantation has
caused them to become controversial. In Indonesia, for example, large multi-national pulp companies
have harvested large areas of natural forest without regard for
From 1980 to 2000, about 50% of the 1.4
million hectares of pulpwood plantations in Indonesia have been
established on what was formerly natural forest land.
The replacement of natural forest with tree plantations has also
caused social problems. In some countries, again, notably
Indonesia, conversions of natural forest are made with little
regard for rights of the local people. Plantations established
purely for the production of fiber provide a much narrower range of
services than the original natural forest for the local people.
India has sought
to limit this damage by limiting the amount of land owned by one
entity and, as a result, smaller plantations are owned by local
farmers who then sell the wood to larger companies.
large environmental organizations are critical of these high-yield
plantations and are running an anti-plantation campaign, notably
the Rainforest Action
Farm or home plantations
Farm or home plantations are typically established for the
production of timber and fire wood for home use and sometimes for
sale. Management may be less intensive than with Industrial
plantations. In time, this type of plantation can become difficult
to distinguish from naturally-regenerated forest.
These may be established for watershed or soil protection. They are
established for erosion control, landslide stabilization and
windbreaks. Such plantations are established to foster native
species and promote forest regeneration on degraded lands as a tool
Probably the single most important factor a plantation has on the
local environment is the site where the plantation is established.
If natural forest is cleared for a planted forest then a reduction
and loss of habitat
will likely result. In some cases,
their establishment may involve draining wetlands
to replace mixed hardwoods
that formerly predominated, with pine
species.If a plantation is established on abandoned agricultural
land, or highly degraded land, it can result in an increase in both
habitat and biodiversity. A planted forest can be profitably
established on lands that will not support agriculture or suffer
from lack of natural regeneration.
The tree species used in a plantation is also an important factor.
Where non-native varieties or species are grown, few of the native
fauna are adapted to exploit these and further biodiversity loss
occurs. However, even non-native tree species may serve as corridors
for wildlife and act as a buffer
for native forest, reducing edge
Once a plantation is established, how it is managed becomes the
important environmental factor. The single most important factor of
management is the rotation period. Plantations harvested on longer
rotation periods (30 years or more) can provide similar benefits to
a naturally regenerated forest managed for wood production, on a
similar rotation. This is especially true if native species are
used. In the case of exotic species, the habitat can be improved
significantly if the impact is mitigated by measures such as
leaving blocks of native species in the plantation, or retaining
corridors of natural forest. In Brazil, similar measures are
required by government regulations.
Plantations and natural forest loss
Many forestry experts claim that the establishment of plantations
will reduce or eliminate the need to exploit natural forest for
wood production. In principle this is true because due to the high
productivity of plantations less land is needed. Many point to the
example of New Zealand, where 19% of the forest area provides 99%
of the supply of industrial round wood. It has been estimated that
the worlds needs for fiber could be met by just 5% of the world
forest (Sedjo&Botkin1997). However in practice, plantations are
replacing natural forest, for example in Indonesia. According to
, about 7%
of the natural closed forest being lost in the tropics is land
being converted to plantations. The remaining 93% of the loss is
land being converted to agriculture and other uses. Worldwide, an
estimated 15% of plantations in tropical countries are established
on closed canopy natural forest.
In the Kyoto Protocol
, there are
proposals encouraging the use of plantations to reduce carbon dioxide
levels (though this idea is
being challenged by some groups on the grounds that the sequestered
is eventually released after harvest).
Other types of plantation
Crops may be called plantation crops
because of their association with a specific type of farming
economy. Most of these involve a large landowner, raising crops
with economic value rather than for subsistence, with a number of
employees carrying out the work. Often it referred to crops newly
introduced to a region. In past times it has been associated with
, indentured labour
, and other economic
models of high inequity. However, arable and dairy farming are both
usually (but not always) excluded from such definitions. A
comparable economic structure in antiquity was the latifundia
that produced commercial
quantities of olive oil
, for export. One plantation crop is bananas
and there are others as well.
High value food crops
Plantings of a number of trees or shrubs grown for food or
beverage, including tea
, and cacao
called plantations. Some spice and high value crops grown from
permanent perennial stock, such as black
may also be so called. When the holding belongs to a
single individual, that person may be called a
Sugar plantations were highly valued in the Caribbean by the
British and French colonists in the 19 and 20th centuries and the
use of sugar in Europe rose during this period. Sugarcane is still
an important crop in Cuba. Sugar plantations also arose in
countries such as Barbados and Cuba because of the natural
endowments that they had. These natural endowments included soil
that was condusive to growing sugar and a high marginal product of
labor realized through the increasing number of slaves.
Plantings of para rubber
, the tree Hevea
, are usually called plantations.
are sometimes considered to
These include tobacco
, especially in historical usage.
Before the rise of cotton in the American South, indigo
sometimes called plantation crops.
Newfoundland was colonized by
England in 1610, the original colonists
were called Planters and their fishing rooms were Fishing Plantations The terms were used
well-into the 20th century.
seventeenth century fishing plantation established at Cuper's Cove
(present day Cupids
)under a royal charter
issued by King James I
. It is maintained by the
Newfoundland and Labrador
as a provincial heritage site.
is the name of a eighteenth century
situated at Bonavista
. It is maintained by
the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador as a provincial
Pool Plantation is the name of a seventeenth century fishing plantation
maintained by Sir David Kirke and
his heirs at Ferryland. The plantation was destroyed by French invaders in
It is maintained by the Government
of Newfoundland and Labrador as a provincial heritage site.
Benger Plantation is the name of an
[eighteenth century]] fishing plantation maintained by James Benger and his heirs at Ferryland.
The plantation was built upon the site of
the previously-destoyed Pool
Piggeon's Plantation is the name of an
eighteenth century fishing
plantation maintained by Ellias
Piggeon at Ferryland.
Slavery, para-slavery and plantations
slave labor extracted from forcibly
transported Africans was used extensively to work on early
plantations (such as cotton and sugar plantations) in the southern states of the United States, throughout the Caribbean, the Americas and in European-occupied areas of Africa.
notable historians and economists such as Eric Williams
and Karl Marx
contend that the
economy was largely
founded on the creation and produce of thousands of slave labour camps
based in colonial
plantations exploiting tens of millions
of abducted Africans.
In modern times, the low wages typically paid to plantation workers
are the basis of plantation profitability in some areas with
minimal employee-protection legislation. Sugarcane plantations in the Caribbean and Brazil, worked by
slave labour, were also examples of the plantation
In more recent times, overt slavery has been replaced by
"para-slavery" or slavery-in-kind, including the sharecropping system
. At its most
extreme, workers are in "debt bondage
they must work to pay off a debt at such punitive interest rates
that it may never be paid off. Others work unreasonably long hours
and are paid subsistence wages that (in practice) may only be spent
in the company store
In the U.S. South
plantations were centered on a
"plantation house", the residence of the owner, where important
business was conducted. Slavery and plantations had different
characteristics in different regions of the South. In the Upper
South, which developed first, historians have defined planters
as those who held 20 or more slaves. The
majority of slaveholders held 10 or fewer slaves, often just a few
to help domestically. By the late 18th century, most planters in
the Upper South had switched from exclusive tobacco cultivation to
mixed crop production.
There was a variety of domestic architecture on plantations.
largest and wealthiest planter families, for instance, those with
estates fronting on the James
River in Virginia, constructed mansions in brick and Georgian style,
e.g. Berkeley Plantation. Common or smaller planters in the late 18th
and 19th century had more modest wood frame buildings, such as
Plantation in Charles City County.
Low Country of South Carolina, by
contrast, even before the American
Revolution, planters holding large rice and cotton plantations
owned hundreds of slaves.
In Charleston and Savannah, the
elite held slaves to work as household servants. The 19th century
development of the Deep South
cultivation depended on large plantations with much more acreage
than was typical of the Chesapeake
area, and for labor planters held hundreds of slaves.
Brazil, a sugarcane plantation was termed an
engenho ("engine"), and the 17th-century English usage for
organized colonial production was "factory".
social and economic structures are discussed at Plantation economy
. Sugar workers on
plantations in Cuba and
elsewhere in the Caribbean lived in company towns known as Bateys.
References and external links
- Trends in Round wood production
Repair Network Advocates plantation forestry.
- Pulping the South Criticism of industrial
- Aldhous, J. R. & Low, A. J. (1974). The potential of
Western Hemlock, Western Red Cedar, Grand Fir and Noble Fir in
Britain. Forestry Commission Bulletin 49.
- Everard, J. E. & Fourt, D. F. (1974). Monterey Pine and
Bishop Pine as plantation trees in southern Britain. Quarterly
Journal of Forestry 68: 111-125.
- Savill, P. Evans, J. Auclair, D. Falk, J. (1997). Plantation
Silviculture in Europe. Oxford University Press. Oxford.
- Sedjo, R. A. & Botkin, D. (1997). Using forest plantations
to spare natural forests. Environment 39 (10): 15-20,
- NGO World