When initiating and managing a teak (Tectona grandis) plantation, selecting the correct terrain and site are fundamental to a successful operation. The ideal soil for growing teak trees is a tropical flat terrain that drains naturally, receives an average amount of 2.000 millimeters in rain annually (preferably seasonal), and is rich in calcium. After planting, a well-managed teak plantation will yield between 100 and 200 cubic meters of teak growth per hectare annually around the tenth year, which then increases to between 200 and 500 cubic meters per hectare annually by year thirty. Later on, by age 50, each individual teak tree is expected to reach an approximate height of 30 meters and up to 65 centimeters in diameter at breast height (DBH). In order to grow properly, teak trees require good amounts of sunlight and space, which means that the recommended amount of trees per hectare is between 1.200 and 1.600 to allow appropriate spacing. Additionally, in order to ensure that the trees receive a sufficient amount of sunlight through their early development, during the first three years, the teak plantation should be grown without any other plant species around them and weeding should be done on a weekly basis.
Managing a High Yielding Teak Operation
Other essential elements for the proper development of the teak trees are well-timed thinning and pruning. Thinning refers to the process of cutting underperforming trees premature for sale, thus allowing the best trees to continue developing fully with more space and soil nutrients. Meanwhile, pruning refers to the cutting of side branches off the main trunk of the trees while they are growing in order to ensure straight and high-quality logs. The first round of thinning in a plantation should take place when the 100 largest trees of each hectare have reached a height of 9 to 9.5 meters, which usually occurs five years after planting. Consequently, the second round of thinning should occur when the 100 largest trees of the hectare section have reached 17 meters, which is approximately ten years after planting. The key with the early years of development is making sure that the tree crowns do not become too large or expand too far horizontally, because this could lead to a large amount of unnecessary growth around the crown and invade the space of neighboring trees.
The harvest rotations for teak plantations go anywhere from 20 to 80 years, depending on the schedule developed by the managers, market prices, and the financial expectations of the investors. However, the average harvesting period for teak plantations is of 40 years. In this regard, the determination to cut and sell the teak logs at a certain time can also be influenced by favorable market openings. Normally, after age 25, the growth of teak trees slows down in terms of height and width. Nevertheless, during these later years, the growth of dark heartwood accelerates within the tree trunk, which eventually means more returns at the time of final harvest.